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The Imperfect Perfection of Fatemeh Burnes

Small stature, long hair, a big smile and a burst of fresh energy waft through every room artist and curator Fatemeh Burnes waltzes through. With a gentle demeanor and a keen eye for detail, Iranian-American Burnes has made Southern California her home for over 30 years now, and has since become a regular name in the SoCal art scene. Hypnotic, bright and complex, her abstract artworks mingle in a realm of existential self reflection and chaotic, seemingly organic life forms or refractions. Having been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally, Burnes has received great recognition and critical feedback in many well respected publications and has had two books of her work published. Her most recent exhibit, "Water Works" at the Porch Gallery in Ojai is an apt setting for her tumultuous and evocative art works.

Porch Gallery, Ojai.
Porch Gallery, Ojai.

The Porch Gallery is an unassuming cottage-style gallery that is really a mecca for fascinating art in the tiny, creative downtown area of Ojai. "Water Works" is an exhibit that plays on the notion of fluidity and life. A group exhibit featuring some stellar artists like Kio Griffith, Kirk Pedersen, Karrie Ross, Dark Bob and more, this exhibit focuses on the natural force of water-based mediums and fluid aspects of life. Using the fluidity of the materials and themes in this show, Burnes explores her abstract and organic looking creations even further, pushing the boundaries of the concept and material uses of liquids in her work.

Fatemeh Burnes working in her studio.
Fatemeh Burnes working in her studio.

The abstraction in her work borders on the familiar--with just hints and touches of humanity mixed in with her fantastical investigations of the unseen and unknown. Much of her work is rooted in identity--having migrated here to Southern California from Tehran in the 1970s, her contemplative work naturally revolves around the idea of self, and what that means in an ever-evolving cultural hot pot like L.A. and SoCal as a whole.

The liquid theme works well with Burnes' art, not just visually but also thematically. In many different media, she often utilizes an investigatory process to pursue a strong fascination with contemplation, growth, connection and humanity--without representational aspects to push the viewer to any one concept or narrative. In her piece, "Self-Speculation II" in "Water Works," the tight and chaotic messes shift around the light and hazy composition of shapes and colors, gently pushing through a residue of liquid invasion and small celestial fields. The work is organic and synthetic at the same time, finding that ever-so-sweet frenzy in one another, constantly battling and bewildering each other into a perfect composition, evoking reflection that borders on doubt.

"Imperfect Geometry II" and "Imperfect Geometry III" take a more organized avenue toward introspection, with more atmospheric properties; she mixes Futurist, Minimalist and Cubist styles in these water-stained and chaotically comforting pieces, helping the viewer to find the balance in imbalance.

Fatemeh Burnes
Fatemeh Burnes


Burnes has been a prominent curator and well respected professor of art, design and art history at many local Southern California universities. She runs the art gallery at Mt. San Antonio College, and has been there since 1992, curating over 100 exhibitions. She also has work in "Trans-Angeles," a traveling exhibition curated by Peter Frank for the Wilhelm-Morgner-Haus in Germany. The show is designed to highlight the distinctive paradigm that L.A. artists think and work, drawing on both personal experience and Southern California's variety of cultural and natural phenomena and the natural experimental nature of L.A. artists. Unlike many other contemporary artists, she doesn't throw her work at every person she meets, and yet her constant presence in the art world is impressive and intimidating. She is a patient and thoughtful artist who often questions the hard to pin-down aspects of this world, and explores the more complex realities than those on the surface.

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