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Aryana Minai at Maple St. Construct

Aryana Minai, Spiraling Solitude, 2022. © Dan Schwalm / © Maple St. Construct.

Aryana Minai: Spiraling Solitude

Maple St. Construct


Aryana Minai, a Los Angeles-based artist, kicked-off Maple St. Construct’s residency and exhibition program for 2022 with her solo-show Spiraling Solitude. It’s a collection of objects made from shredded books into sheets of paper pulp with varied pressed-on textures.

“These are probably the most abstract pieces that I’ve made.” Minai says. “I do a lot more drawing with bricks, woodblocks, or objects… It’s kind of a weird performance.” The artist’s fingers are impressed in many of the works, though, she says “the other pieces are embossed with found objects.” 

Her making process is simple: it’s making handmade paper, something that’s usually taught to elementary school kids. Minai took thrifted books from a local Goodwill in Omaha and shredded them in a blender. Afterwards, she used a screen to make large sheets, dyeing them with inks along the way. The final step being the most important - using bricks, iron, or wooden blocks to print designs onto the paper’s surface.

It’s an unconventional type of printmaking, a “D.I.Y. Home Craft,” to Minai. 

The exhibition space not only displays these completed rectangular or square objects, but also the tools she used. In one room, there is a tub with a screen. There are also bricks placed throughout, stacked by themselves, or alongside a completed sheet of paper. 

Minai reveals the value of her art as more of a performance than the creation of a masterpiece. 

A few days prior to her exhibition, I visited her studio and almost stepped on one of the objects. It’s like she almost didn’t mind. Minai also tasked me with helping move one of her artworks from one building into another. You can’t even imagine doing something like this at a museum, touching an artwork without some severe repercussions. 

Aryana Minai, Spiraling Solitude, 2022. © Dan Schwalm / © Maple St. Construct. 

Even though her works are elaborately decorated, her color choice is very mute, and almost resembles tie dye. They are composed of mostly brown earth tones, dark blues, magentas, or pine greens.  

One larger work, titled Be (up) against II, has been pressed with a piece of fencing/protective ironwork as well as fingers resembling hatching. On the corners are impressions of bricks, which made the paper very flat. Like the other works, this piece is mostly brown, terracotta, with some grayish blue and what looks like a diluted green. 

Conceptually, the work does not deviate much from artists like Paul Anthony Smith, Edra Soto, Rachel Whiteread, or Jezabeth Roca González, who use architectural objects to create palimpsests and impressions. 

In Be (up) against II, we see that connection to architecture. It’s “a memory within the piece.” Minai says. “This feels like home.” 

This is a fairly transferable memory, because many parts of the world use this kind of ironwork. Minai says it reminds her of Iran, and it equally reminds me of Mexico.  

There are also much smaller squares that are intended to look like ceramic tiles, those in Be (up) against IV and Shoe Chain in particular, though they are displayed in a much more abstracted way. Unlike the larger works, these works are not stained with different colors and are purely orange-reds, browns, and colors that are almost black.  

Aryana Minai, Spiraling Solitude, 2022. © Dan Schwalm / © Maple St. Construct.

The impression in Shoe Chain comes from what looks to be a bicycle chain, which when pressed into the sheets of paper, look like fossils, DNA, or some tracks from a millipede. It lacks the decorative elaborateness of the large-scale works and seems to be more about psychological introspection or interpretation. 

Outside of the physical marks in the work, the materials Minai uses are also charged. In other works, the artist has used shredded medical bills as a material. Not only did Minai use fiction books as her primary material, but the narratives within them are a hidden aspect to understand the work, especially since the artist started to develop this series when former President Donald Trump was stoking tensions with Iran. 

Many of these books spoke to topics in relation to the “East vs. West” mentality that continues to inform contemporary political and intellectual discourse, no matter how perverted and inaccurate it may be.

It’s just as much a palimpsest, an aspect of memory as the physical objects leaving an impression on the artworks. WM

Jonathan Orozco

Jonathan Orozco is an independent writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. He received his art history BA from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2020. Orozco runs an art blog called Art Discourses, which primarily covers Midwest artists and exhibitions.

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