"Aphrodite Désirée Navab is an Iranian-born, New York-based artist whose work mines her Iranian, Greek and American cultural heritage asking questions of its competing histories and politics. Her art is the aching inquiry of an uprooted consciousness seeking new roots. It also serves as a site of critical dialogue and debate. Ultimately, Navab's art haunts our imagination with its beauty and complexity, inviting us to engage in a third space of transnational and cross-cultural initiations, leaving domination and demonization outside the picture." -Reza Aslan, author of NY Times #1 Best Seller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.
Navab’s latest work: The Blind Owl Meets the Hunger Artist (2014-present) is an ongoing series of ink drawings where she imagines an invented encounter between the protagonist of Iranian writer Sadeq Hedayat's novella The Blind Owl and the protagonist of Czech writer Franz Kafka's short story, "The Hunger Artist." Metaphors, allegories, and themes are explored of the artists in voluntary exile, the nature of performance art, the real and the ideal, rituals of insanity, the existential crises of the artists and their autobiographical narratives.
It is in the process of her art that Navab dislocates and relocates her place between Iran, Greece and the United States. Each exhibition or installation provides a material reference for her after having left her first relatives, friends, home, language and culture. Each series places a foundation stone into a new home that she is building away from home, but always in critical dialogue with the memory of that first home. To be ‘unhomed’, as cultural studies theorist Homi Bhabha puts it, does not mean that she is ‘homeless’. Nor does it mean that she can be accommodated easily. By occupying two places at once, a cultural hybrid becomes difficult to place. It is within this ‘third space’ of working, contesting and reconstructing that the hybrid cultural identity creates an opening for other positions to emerge–a space of transnational and cross-cultural initiations.
Homeling was Navab’s Greek grandmother Efigenia’s pronunciation for homeless. Neither homeless nor at home, homeling captures both the horror and the rapture, in re-locating home and world.
In 2004 Navab completed an Ed.D doctorate in Art Education at Columbia University. She received her BA magna cum laude in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard College in 1993. Her doctoral dissertation, “Unsaying Life Stories: A Comparative Analysis of the Autobiographical Art of Four Iranians,” is the first study specifically focused on the work of artists of the Iranian diaspora. A chapter from it is published in the Journal of Aesthetic Education, University of Illinois Press, Volume 41/2 (2007). The dissertation is published in its entirety as De-Orientalizing Iran: The Art of Sevruguin, Neshat, Navab, and Ghazel. Lampert Academic Publishing (2011).
Navab’s art has been featured in over one hundred exhibitions and is included in a number of permanent collections including: the Lowe Art Museum, the Harn Museum of Fine Arts, Casoria Contemporary Art Museum, Naples, Italy, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Arkansas State University.
Navab’s most recent solo exhibition, I Am Not a Miniature, was at Soho20 Chelsea in NYC (Oct.-Nov. 2013). In 2009, her art was featured in the museum exhibition and catalogue, Through the Lens: Photography from the Permanent Collection, at the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami. The exhibition featured only 100 significant photographs from more than 1,000 photographic holdings from: Julia Margaret Cameron and Walker Evans to Cindy Sherman and Gregory Crewdson.
Navab’s writing is published in six anthologies, from “Re-picturing Photography: A Language in the Making,” in Photographic Theory: An Historical Anthology (2014), edited by Andrew Hershberger, UK: Wiley Blackwell, and POWWOW: Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience, Short Fiction from Then to Now (2009), edited by Ishmael Reed, to Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006), edited by Persis Karim.
Navab was Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Florida, after completing four years of teaching art studio and art education in the College of Fine Arts there as Adjunct and Visiting Assistant Professor (2000-5). She was Area Coordinator of the BFA and MFA creative photography programs (2003-4). She also taught graduate students in the MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) program at The School of Visual Arts (2008-9).
Currently, Navab serves on the boards of two independent and non-profit organizations. She is on the Committee of Twenty of Network 20/20 which helps prepare multi-generation leaders in the U.S. to participate meaningfully in the promotion of entrepreneurial diplomacy, trans-national problem solving, and global sustainability. http://network2020.org/ She is Vice President of AGAPW (The Association of Greek American Professional Women) whose mission is to promote community and leadership building among Greek-American women. http://agapw.org/site/