Soheyla Rashidyan: an artist’s story of perseverance and triumph

During a series of bloodbaths from September 1980 to July 1988, a beautiful mind was just beginning to blossom. This enduring and elegant flower is the artist Soheyla Rashidyan.

Soheyla was just a young girl living in western Iran when Saddam Hussein began to threaten her homeland. Struggling in such a troubling situation, Soheyla sought attention from her parents by drawing pictures. Her parents’ attention was absent, so as the determined young artist she was, Soheyla gathered the appropriate documents and enrolled herself into the local high school for the arts in Esfahan as a young teen. It was here that she down-shifted for the uphill trek toward her summit: acceptance into the Art and Architecture University in Tehran, where she claimed her B.F.A. degree in graphic design.

A piece from Soheyla’s “Honoring the Children” exhibit at Harrington Library // photos by David Layman

Soheyla’s family later immigrated to the Netherlands where they lived within an immense refugee camp. This move only spurred her love for art. For four years in Europe, she taught the arts to the children within the camp’s boundaries. She watched them closely as they would draw, and she began to notice that the kids would draw with what she calls “x-ray vision.” Soheyla excitedly expressed, “When they would draw trees, included within the picture would be the roots that are to be hidden beneath the dirt, or when some would draw visuals of their pregnant moms, on the tummy they would draw their new sibling.”

Eventually Soheyla made her way to Plano, Texas. She met Mandy Sicking in 2014 while taking an art class. One year later Mandy and several concerned members of the Plano Art Association (PAA) were looking for new leadership for PAA, someone who could bring a fresh outlook to an organization that had been around for almost 50 years. The first person that Mandy thought of was Soheyla.

Soheyla happily accepted the offer. Of her role, Soheyla said, “I am the president of the PAA, but I am really just a child who has never grown up. I am the mothering sort. I want to get young and aspiring artists out and into the open.”

Mandy Sicking (left) with Soheyla in front of one of Soheyla’s pieces on display at Harrington Library

Soheyla’s pioneering spirit is exactly what drives her current exhibit, “Honoring the Children,” currently on display through the end of May at Harrington Library near downtown Plano. “We chose to install this collection in particular due to being kid-friendly, and more importantly, its educational angle,” she explained.

Soheyla’s exhibit marks the beginning of a series of ongoing art exhibits at Harrington Library. Heather Torres, the Public Services Librarian at Harrington, explained that this series of art exhibits came about because Harrington wanted to take an active role as a part of the designated Downtown Plano Arts District. She continued, “The library of today is not exactly the library that it used to be. This is just going to be one way to show the public who we are and that is exciting.” When Soheyla’s exhibit concludes at the end of May, local artist Emily Delarios will take over the display at Harrington.

Soheyla Rashidyan’s “Honoring the Children” exhibit at Harrington Library

Starting in June, Harrington Library will also begin a separate collaboration with local artists called AIRspace. An artist will reside in the library for the entire month, exhibiting their work and leading classes in the library.

Who would have imagined that a refugee from war-torn Iran would take inspiration from the darkest times in her life to create such beauty? Let us not take for granted the talent that worked so hard to get here. Look past her seemingly two-dimensional art and develop your own “x-ray vision.”

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