Niloofar Gholamrezaei

Life drawing has been a tradition at PAFA from the beginning and remains a fundamental part of the curriculum for all students. This classical method of art instruction involves drawing, painting and sculpting from observation of a live (and typically unclothed) model.

While PAFA students may not think twice about the opportunity to study the human form through live models and casts like those in PAFA’s historic Cast Hall, alumna Niloofar Gholamrezaei left her native Iran to pursue this kind of education. It’s what brought her to PAFA.

“In Iran, I started learning about Western representational painting. However, I faced many obstacles to continue my career in this field. In my country, representational painting is a new phenomenon that hasn’t been developed adequately.”

Gholamrezaei graduated from the MFA program in 2012 and said that drawing from the figure was a key part of her artistic training.

“I learned about form and human gestures and emotions. Studying human anatomy needs to include nude models, cast sculptures, etc. In Iran, I didn’t have access to these resources. …  Cultural norms in Iran made it difficult to organize or participate in figure drawing clubs. I decided to join a program that gave me this possibility.”

Beyond the ability to work from the figure, Gholamrezaei said she came to PAFA to improve her work on an intellectual level.

“The graduate program has such wonderful critics and teachers, who engage the students intellectually with many important issues and concepts in contemporary art.  … At PAFA I deepened my works both formally and conceptually.”

Gholamrezaei is currently pursuing a PhD in Fine Arts at Texas Tech University while maintaining her studio practice.

“I’m trying to push the knowledge I learned at PAFA further, both in my paintings and research. For example, while having Denise Green as my critic and working on my thesis with Dr. Kevin Richards, I became aware of an interesting connection between my work and some concepts in linguistic theories. For me, this was an absolutely significant discovery. Now, in my PhD program I’m continuing my research about this connection.”

One element of her research involves focusing “on the issue of modernity or clash of old and new in the Middle East."

“I’m also interested in exploring the connection between metaphor and metonymy in the visual arts," she says. "I hope, in the future, I will continue my career as a painter, teacher and researcher.”

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.