Meet Marjaneh Goudarzi, Painter of Women

Painter Marjaneh Goudarzi // photo Jennifer Shertzer

“Love is an art. If you cannot love things, you cannot feel art. That’s an essential of being an artist, knowing what is love,” Iranian painter Marjaneh Goudarzi said, after discovering her passion for art at age 19. On Feb. 24-25, she will be showcasing her artwork in a women’s exhibition at Frisco Celebration Hall.

Her collection centers around women from all over the world, women she believes she could have been in another lifetime. The idea came to her in 1993 when she was teaching dentistry to college students in Iran, and met an alarming statistic about women who suffer from hepatitis in Ethiopia.

“These women are victims,” she thought sadly, her mind wandering to women from other countries and the unbearable issues and illnesses they silently battle every day. She felt like their stories had slipped through time and space, their lives forever lost.

Six months later, her mom was diagnosed with hepatitis C, and Marjaneh’s world started spinning, shattering her reality. Her mom was someone Marjaneh never believed would become a victim, whose strength and resilience she modeled after. Marjaneh faced the truth that hepatitis could touch any woman, including the one she loved most; she could no longer deny that women were her cause and concern.

Marjaneh Goudarzi’s “Woman from Africa” // courtesy the artist

But as a recent divorcee and full-time dentist raising a son, Marjaneh couldn’t put her thoughts into action. She would safely store away her dream for nearly two decades until she moved to America in 2010 and truly embraced herself as an artist.

When she left Iran, she left her life as a dentist behind, too – the 19 years she worked as a dental instructor. But now that she was free to be anything, she wasn’t sure how to spend her time, and began baking.

Her second husband was the first to encourage her to paint – to follow her true calling. He took note of how she would passionately paint decorations on cakes and cupcakes, and he created her a canvas of her own to paint on instead. Two or three canvases later, Marjaneh had devoted herself to art, and her husband had discovered a love for woodworking.

“When I go to art shops to get paint, it looks more like people who are going to a jewelry shop; paints are like jewelry to me, real jewelry,” she said, laughing.

In 2014 Marjaneh started working at Young Rembrandts, an after school art program. She now teaches art in Frisco ISD, as well as offers private lessons. Her specialty is her “Fun, Sip and Painting” parties, which she says are different than other paint-and-sip parties. At the events, she hopes to do more than help her students finish a project; she aspires to touch their inner artist and show them how to see art in a new, more extraordinary light.

Her women’s exhibition includes 16 acrylic portraits, portrayed modestly, but memorably. Using old black-and-white pictures of women for inspiration, Marjaneh brought her vision to life.

Their bodies are simplified and not made to be accurate in regard to anatomy. They don’t display muscles, breasts or detail in attire. Everything feels ordinary, except for the eyes and elegant pieces of jewelry Marjaneh added. Marjaneh created the eyes to reveal an unspoken truth, the very essence of their being. Their every glance is soulful, speaking mountains.

Sad or happy, “my women are strong,” Marjaneh said, simply.

Marjaneh Goudarzi’s “Woman from Romania” // courtesy the artist

Every painting is accompanied by a short story, so her women’s lives would feel real to everyone, not just her. She hopes people will see them for who they are and connect with them, knowing their stories as Marjaneh does. Her paintings are intentionally a little rough because this is what their lives entail, Marjaneh says, truth and beauty.

Marjanaeh picked their countries at random, and isn’t including the name of the country with the exhibition. “It doesn’t matter where they’re from. No matter what, they are women,” she said.

The first painting from her women’s exhibition is a woman from Nigeria that Marjaneh completed in May of 2015. The woman’s eyes reveal the hardness in her life, the obstacles she is learning to overcome. Another woman is African, her eyes a faded, formidable yellow from hepatitis. That painting remains especially close to Marjaneh, a reminder of her mother and her treasured past.

Marjaneh can trace her mom’s influence to as early as when she was four or five years old. “I was my mom’s follower,” she said, recalling moments when she would watch the news with her mom, and listen in awe to her progressive, articulate thoughts on a political event. She taught Marjaneh the power of self-expression, as well as the importance of education.

In contrast to her mom’s academic side, her dad was a colorful man, his clothing lighting up the mundane of everyday life. He wore effervescent, exciting shades of orange and yellow and encouraged Marjaneh’s love for colors.

Marjaneh Goudarzi art exhibition in Frisco

The two sides – the scientist and the artist – clashed inside her until she finally decided to surrender one: her past self for her present.

Four years ago when she changed paths from a dentist to a painter, she held a solo exhibition at her clubhouse, just to announce the person she was choosing to be. Not everyone understood or accepted her decision, she says, but it was her decision in the end, her destiny.

Marjaneh said she hopes this exhibition will redefine her as an artist and let people know that this is who she is right now – the Marjaneh for this period of time.

“I decided to bury myself in art until the last moment of my life,” she says, because for Marjaneh, where there is art, there is love.

Marjaneh Goudarzi The Art of Marjaneh Goudarzi >

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