Zahra Saei

Artist bio

When I was 13 years old, one of my hobbies was to lay out a piece of paper and start drawing my own name in alphabetic graphic designs. I remember that I was a huge fan of Britney Spears, and I would always design her name beside my own name. At that time, I was not aware that what I was doing was called logo designing. Later on, my family encouraged me to go to art school, and I enrolled in a graphics high school in Tehran. From the start of my career, I was always eager to try out new materials. For instance, I would paint fruits' skins and their seeds with bright colors and shape them into necklaces and earrings. To prepare the fruits’ skins I would first place them inside the microwave, and then, I would pour wood glue and normal glue on them as a form of preservative. Later, I did a mask exhibition at Kamaleddin Behzad Gallery in Tehran where I exhibited my masks that were made out of fruit skins, made with the same technique. After completing my high school diploma in graphics, I did my bachelor's degree in handicrafts where I became very interested in Iranian kilims and carpets, and decided to integrate them into my artwork. I met an Iranian nomad who worked in Tehran. He would buy carpets and kilims from the Southern Iranian cities and make chairs and sofas from them, and I would take his left-over pieces and integrate them into my own work. Nine years after I graduated in handicrafts, at the age of 33 and as a mature student, I started a MSc in General Psychology at Allame Tabatai University. I had three main motivations/aims for continuing my studies in psychology. Firstly, I was interested to do research on arts, especially fine arts, from the viewpoint of psychology. I wanted to carry out research on topics such as the relationship between bipolar disorder and creativity, the effect of art therapy -specifically visual arts- in reducing anxiety and depression. I also wanted to study how art therapy can be used for the diagnosis and treatment of female sexual disorders. Secondly, because in Iran there are currently no universities offering art therapy as a university major, I am hoping that my activities will highlight this gap and encourage authorities to launch art therapy as an essential university degree. My third motivation for entering psychology was to help reduce the gender differences and gender discrimination of women in Iran. I realized the need to use art, as an indirect psychological method, to help reduce gender discrimination against Iranian women. Art can be used to increase women’s self-confidence, to help fight depression, and as a means of anger management. It can empower women. Art can even be used in the diagnosis of women’s mental health problems. To achieve the three above goals, during 2 years of my MSc degree, I became a member of Allame-Tabaei university’s Department of Culture and Art, where I started to volunteer as Secretary of the Visual Arts Centre. I held several workshops regarding art therapy under different titles including: ‘Iranian handicrafts and art therapy’, ‘painting to evoke emotions’, and ‘art and psychology. In these workshops, I introduced art therapy and presented the most recent published scientific findings carried out in Iran and in other countries in regard to art therapy. In my workshops, through practical assignments, the students became acquainted with the basics of fine arts. Furthermore, In 2021, I launched the first student magazine in Iran in art therapy called ‘Harmony’ at Allameh Tabatai University. As the secretary of Visual Arts Centre, for a year, every two weeks I held various national online student competitions where participants were asked to color, draw, paint or visualize conceptual words such as anger or love. One of the aims of holding these competitions was to engage students and help enhance their mental health during the covid pandemic.


suffocation and self-actualization



Artist Statement

Since I was young, Persian carpets were a symbol of originality, beauty and mystery for me, like a woman! During my artistic activities, I integrated carpets into many of my works including masks, paintings, jewelry and most recently in my sculptures. I generally use left-over vintage Persian carpets and produce artwork by adding new materials such as glue guns and glue sticks. I also use disposable items such as soda bottles for instance to make vases. At times, I have used Devil's ivy plant that is a symbol of endless growth, however, instead of placing it inside soil, I placed the plants in water to symbolize transparency. In my work, I also use molds. For instance, I have made masks by first molding my face with a plaster band. Then, using a glue gun, I covered the mold with glue and peeled off the plaster to make the mask look transparent. Afterwards, I emptied parts of the mask using a torch.

What differentiates my artwork from other people is the knowledge of psychology that underlies my work. For me making art is a way to clean everything out of my mind. It gives me the sense of drifting in a timeless realm. I use art to express my thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, Art therapy is a way for women to express themselves and overcome discrimination. As a psychologist, I understand that women like myself need to enhance our self-awareness to in turn create a healthier society. However, a majority of Iranian women are taught from childhood not to speak up, not to see, and not to even consider their own needs. This leads to their low self-esteem, depression and helplessness, and one of the best ways for helping women in Iran is through art.

I believe in Maslow's Pyramid that says that humans, regardless of their gender, ultimately seek self-actualization, and it is then that all these suffering eventually become nothing more than past experiences. And that it is then that maturity sprouts from within us. In my two submitted works, I tried to portray the situation of an Iranian woman and all the social suffocation and suppression that is imposed upon her. My works show that, at the end of the tunnel, there is still a window of hope which will always exist. In my first work, I showed suffocation, and in the second, I showed growth from within. Freedom and awareness eventually find their way, regardless of all limitations and barriers.

How it fits into contest

I was born in Iran as a Muslim woman who had no part and power in choosing my own religion. I soon realized that, in many instances, my religion cannot answer my questions. Furthermore, pursuing the concepts of spirituality, inner growth and self-fulfillment has always been part of my life. So I was very happy when I accidentally can across this competition on Google search. I think chi??? Will enhance my knowledge about another religion and open a new window for me as a woman.

Studying psychology at the post graduate level has helped me focuc more closely on the concept of spirituality than before.

Finding a meaning in life and self-actualization become an important part of my life. I started reading about these topics from the viewpoint of different psychologists and theorists. The competition that was chosen was very much in line with the path I have been talking in my artwork. Moving in the direction of self-knowledge, self-fulfillment and understanding the concept of suffering and hardships of life as a way to growth.

How to Purchase this Artwork

My mother lives in UK. I can post it for her and the buyer can order it through amazon or any other safe websites they prefer.

Other Goods & Services Available from this Artist

I make handmade handicrafts (including accessories and wall hanging mirrors) and work as a sculptor, painter and psychologist.
Instagram: zahr.saei.jgn

Submit Your Artwork Today!

Curious? Interested in submitting artwork to our contest? Know someone who might be? Through April 14th, 2022, the Engage Art Contest is open to the whole world! Get your foot in the door by claiming your Artist Page now!