Shirin Neshat, Closets
Shirin Neshat

"Style is not about showing off," Shirin says, alluding to the elegant Indian women in saris that you see traveling in airports. It is the things in life that are beautiful by accident that she cherishes -- nothing mass-produced and nothing intended for an end result other than its original purpose. Identity before comfort, real before pretentious. "We all have demons living inside of us; it's impossible to be human and not fall apart sometimes," Shirin so honestly confesses.

Shirin's deeply-rooted point of view is in everything from her signature indigenous jewelry and Cleopatra-inpsired eye makeup to her spellbinding artwork that divulges her passion for her Iranian origins and its cultural complexities. Exile from her homeland during the revolution, which included a Berkeley College education, in addition to being brought up in pre-revolutionary Iran by parents with a modern outlook, has only magnetized her further towards an exploration of the authentic -- to wit, the historic splendor of the the Iranian people, its religious traditions, and the intensity of aliveness in revolutionary countries.

"I have always found women behind the veil striking," Shrin says. "I enjoy traditional clothes," as evidenced by her hand-embroidered jacket and the penchant for black as the background to her ancient jewels. "These women's beauty wasn't bought," she declares. "Their beauty was a part of their soul." And the soul is what Shirin has dedicated her life to investigating in her piercing, mesmerizing, and hypnotic photographic portraits that she then painstakingly emblazons with ancient Persian calligraphy.

"I love being among people who are living history," says Shirin. "My art focuses on revolution, women, and poetry. The veil is a symbol of women's repression, yet these women were effective in revolution, and poetry, too, which has come to the rescue in the face of brutality." That’s the reality of the Iranian society that Shirin gives oxygen to in her art, and is ultimately the kind of richness that upends entire nations. Shirin embodies the type of muse that we seek to put forth: Someone whose sense of self derives from things larger than herself. Selfies nowhere to be found.

Video Edited by Adaeze Elechi

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