"Here, you're really encouraged to make connections with artists and with faculty."
With about 150 students, SFAI’s MFA program is dynamic, energizing—and sometimes overwhelming. “The size of the grad program was a big challenge for me when I first came in,” admits Kimia, a figurative painter whose work takes on notions of femininity, sexuality, and idealized beauty. “It’s on the larger size of graduate programs in the U.S., and I felt a little lost at first. But when you have a larger body of artists, it’s more likely you’re going to find people that you resonate with. I’ve met so many different artists where I think, ‘I really like your art, and you really like mine—we should do something together!’ ”
One such collaboration was a 2010 show at Treehouse Gallery called Meet Me in the Middle, featuring the work of female Iranian and Israeli artists. (Kimia and Taravat Talepasand, SFAI’s Richard Diebenkorn Teaching Fellow, represented Iran, and fellow SFAI MFA students Yael Zaken and Hadass Gerson represented Israel.) The show explored how, in a time when political rhetoric and generalizations dominate global discourse, artists’ personal narratives can offer new perspectives on inter-cultural conversations.
Kimia is no stranger to global thinking. Prior to coming to SFAI, she worked as a book conservationist at Baha'i World Centre in Israel, and immediately after graduating this spring she moved to India, where her husband is working in microfinance. By chance, the first of SFAI’s visiting artists last spring was Nalini Malani, an acclaimed Delhi-based painter, and meeting her provided Kimia an entryway into contemporary Indian art. “I’m really excited to see how India affects my work—the colors, the aesthetics there,” she says. She has already tried painting with beet juice to capture the ubiquitous hot pink of the country, and visited the Cholamandal Artists’ Village, a commune near her home in Chennai. In the fall, she will complete an artist residency at The Dune in Pondicherry.
This new phase is a continuation of SFAI’s vision of art beyond the classroom. “Here, you’re really encouraged to make connections with artists and with faculty, and fostering those relationships is almost as important as academics,” says Kimia. “My professors—Pegan Brooke, Mark Van Proyen, Brett Reichman, Allan deSouza—these people have been my mentors, and I respect them so much as artists and as friends.”
Visit Kimia’s website: www.kimiakline.com