M.F.A. Candidate Shirin Khalatbari Wins Jack and Gertrude Murphy Award

Friday, August 10, 2018
Photo of Shirin Khalatbari standing inside her installation

Two times a charm for third-year Master of Fine Arts student Shirin Khalatbari, as she recently won the Jack and Gertrude Murphy Award from the San Francisco Foundation. Khalatbari first applied for the $40,000 grant in 2017, but this year the judges determined that she was the one applicant to be “of unusual caliber with great artistic promise.”

Two of Khalatbari’s installations, A Layer for Your Protection and Author Unknown, will be on display at the annual Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition, from August 16 to August 20 at SOMArts Cultural Center at 934 Brannan Street in San Francisco. Work by M.F.A. student Daniel Southard, one of 16 winners of the Edwin Anthony and Adalaine Boudreaux Cadogan Scholarship this year, will also be on display.

A Layer for Your Protection addresses the Iranian government censorship of the internet, while Author Unknown is a critique of political repression. The intentional nature of her installations delivers an important immediacy to address the issues her artistic representations explore.

Khalatbari’s work explores the visual traces of history, including the impacts and legacies of colonialism, in order to create transformative environments in which perception of the present and reality are challenged. By combining photography, painting, sculpture, sound and video, her work produces an ambiance that defamiliarizes one’s sense of time and space, allowing the viewer to travel through spacetime.

Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Khalatbari earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Near Eastern art and archaeology at Università di Roma, La Sapienza. before coming to SF State for her M.F.A.

For her installations, she usually makes use of materials such as space blankets, blocking air fluids and space shuttle enactments. Images are usually plastered from floor to ceiling throughout the gallery to represent the problems of mass migration statistics, refugee crises and emergency services. She cites faculty members Sean McFarland, Paula Levine and Mike Arcega as being instrumental to her success at San Francisco State.

The Murphy Award and Cadogan Scholarships are open to M.F.A. students from leading art institutions in the Bay Area. Winners benefit from participation in the professionally curated exhibition at SOMArts and mentorship from curator/San Francisco State Lecturer Kevin B. Chen.

— Ufuoma Umusu

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Photo: Shirin Khalatbari stands inside her installation, A Layer for your Protection, at SF State's Martin Wong Gallery in March. Photo by Sreang Hok.

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