Shabnam Yousefian was born in Tehran, Iran in 1982. She started drawing and painting at age seven. She pursued oil painting professionally at age sixteen under the supervision of a prominent instructor.
After graduating high school, Shabnam capitulated to social expectations and attended Azad University in Tehran to study Microbiology. However, she continued painting and attending art classes while in university. Her persistence and hard work helped her to excel in this area so much that in 2001 she became an instructor in that art institute despite her young age.
At age twenty-two Shabnam opened her own art gallery in 2004 in Tehran. Her art works included painting and sculpture. Besides managing her art gallery she had private and group art lessons as well.
In 2008 she immigrated to the United States. Realizing that art was her only passion, she decided to revisit her choice of undergraduate study. In the fall 2014 Shabnam started attending the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California to continue her studies. She graduated and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2016.
Her early style of painting was conventional realism, focused on the female figures, and copying the academic masters. While attending Claremont Graduate University, her vision started shifting to more contemporary subjects, still focused mainly on female figures initially. Gradually her relationship to photographic sources changed and her style of paintings became more stylized and suggestive.
Shabnam lives and works in Upland, California.
I am drawn to painting because of its capacity to reflect the world I live in. My goal is to demonstrate the fact that what is done in life has a reflection on us as well as our surrounding environment. My paintings are abstractions of real places. Reflection implies clarity; however it is unclear at the same time. To me, reflection is clearer than reality. Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance can be deceiving. Reflection reveals the hidden realities. On the opposite side of “Reflection” is “Shadow” – the unreal and dark side of anything. Due to its exaggeration or reduction feature, shadow in my paintings stands for representing illusory and unreal side of things.
The style of my paintings is a combination of realism and abstraction. In the beginning I could not understand abstract art and was not attracted to it. Abstractions seemed primitive and meaningless. It was as if I was trying to love a book written in a language I couldn’t read. Over time this changed and I became more interested in abstraction to a point where it began to influence my perspective. Eliminating subject details has caused some degree of shift from realism toward abstraction.
In the past I would begin with a photo that captured my attention and I was very faithful to the subject. But slowly I have let go of some details of my subject and its environment. Now, after making an initial sketch from the photograph, I put it aside and work from my imagination and memory. By doing so, expressions of my feelings are better reflected in my work.
My current works are both abstract and realistic. They feel real but at the same time little details reveal that they are abstract. This in turn creates a dichotomy. Stylization of realism requires my focus on the subject matter and its descriptive qualities, whereas stylization of abstraction is a process where I emphasize the formal elements of picture making and personal expression over explicit subject matter. My art is a combination of these styles which allow me to distort reality in ways that distinguish it from photographs.
My works are all a reflection of my own life, beliefs, experiences and goals. To me art is an oasis of opportunities enabling me to utilize my innate abilities without any obstruction.