By SPECIWOMEN Illustration GINA PIERSANTI
"I’m thankful that I am a woman and that I am of color because it gives me a perspective that is vitally important to me for my art. I am so tired of men drawing women."
Who are you?
My name full name is Panteha Ariana Abareshi, and I’m a Persian-Jamaican teen, and I guess, an artist. I live in the Sonoran desert, unfortunately. But I suppose that if there’s one benefit to living in a very uninspiring place, it’s that all of my inspiration comes from my own personal experiences, as well as all the art I seek out. My hobbies aside from my art include stressing out about my future, and watching Crime shows with the subtitles on. Interest-wise, there’s the usual “I like books, I like movies”, but I also really dig vintage biology diagrams, and 80’s color palettes. A lot of my pieces have these wonky, colorful patterns, and after a while people started saying “Hey, those really look like cells. Like from biology textbooks”.
Anyways, I guess something else that’s an important part of me is that I struggle really severely with depression and anxiety. I try to put all of my experiences, thoughts and emotions into my art. It’s a huge part of my character that I feel I can’t express in any way other than through my work. Everything’s so complicated, but my art helps simplify everything.
How did you first get into art?
I also have a condition known as Sickle Cell Beta Thalassemia, which leads to me being in the hospital quite often and at unpredictable times. I started drawing as a coping mechanism for the chronic pain, and it soon became a coping mechanism for my mental illness. I honestly didn’t think I could draw in the sense of creating original pieces that looked finished and… well good. I have a classical music training, and played a slew of instruments up until the end of middle school. It’s an inexplicably good feeling finding what makes you happy, and never tires you out or frustrates you to the point of wanting to stop. That’s what I found with my art, and had never found with anything else.
What is the purpose of your work?
I want to change the way that mental illness is portrayed in art, and the media, I want to change the way that mental illness is perceived by society, and I want to increase and normalize Women of Color being portrayed in art without sexualization, stereotyping or the basis of their character being put solely on their race.
I deal with a great number of people who do not and cannot understand what suffering with mental illness is like. Because it’s so difficult for me to express the intrusive, frightening and self-deprecating emotions and thoughts that come with my depression and anxiety, I am able to convey that through my art. More specifically, I am able to communicate in a way that makes it easier for people who have never experienced mental illness to understand what the experience is like (for me personally).
Also, I think that there are so many PoC artists, so many WoC artists and so many mentally ill artists that have been deprived of a creative space that is solely for them for so long, and finally we’re reaching a time where there has become a hyperawareness in the art world that the domination by white artists has to stop. It’s extremely thrilling to be part of this movement of empowered PoC artists who are making a space for themselves in the art world. Of course, I hope to grow personally and learn more about what it means to be a PoC artist, and what more I can do as a woman, and an artist of color in a white, male-dominated industry.
What materials do you use?
My toolbox has my lucky, mustard yellow pencil, my black outlining pens in (.03, .05 and .005 size nibs), my eraser pen, and my white ink gel pen. I take my little box of pens/pencils with me everywhere so I can draw, and I do all my coloring at home. For that I use different types of alcohol-based markers, preferably with brush-tips. My favorites are Copics, but I also use Prismacolors and the Blick studio markers. I really love vibrancy and brightness in my pieces, so I do several layers of color when doing my patterns. For paper, I use varying sizes of bristol or soft-vellum pads (Rhodia being my favorite).
Who inspires you?
I get so much of my inspiration from Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese and David Lynch’s work- their cinematography and all of their dreamy characterization is what I strive to achieve in my artwork. I’m a big fan of South Korean 80s cinema- which is perhaps where some of my blood and gore inspirations come from in my work.
Other artists that I really admire and just fawn over are Toshio Saeki, Yoshitoshi Kanemaki, Takeshi Murakami, Yoshimoto Nara. They’re all part of the Japanese Contemporary Art movement, and their use of color, and Saeki’s mixture of traditional Japanese-Style art with weird, sexual modernity just has me in love. Margaret Bowland is a complete inspiration, with her pieces for black-empowerment. I could go on for hours about that, but I should also mention Kehinde Wiley who’s pieces make me so emotional and just… blow me away. I have so much love and support for black artists, and artists of color it just fills me with pride to see them making such powerful work. A lot of my pattern inspirations come from my mother-muse-Nathalie Du Pasquier. She was just a groovy old french lady, making art and furniture and handbags and I dig her work so much. Last but not least, Haruki Murakami, my favorite author, gives me a lot of inspiration. Again, I love contemporary Japanese literature, and his use of surrealism and his characterizations are extremely relatable to me personally, I don’t think there’s a single Murakami character who I don’t like. They’re all pretty messed up, which is why.
Where do you prefer to work?
At home, in bed, hands down. I have a big window over my bed, and I get the most done when I have music playing and I’m comfortable and alone. Sometime’s I’ll go to a coffee shop to work, and since I always carry my supplies with me it’s never hard to sit and start drawing. But I prefer the comfort of my home, where it’s quiet and I have everything I need.
Who is your work for?
My work is for me before anyone else. I never expected people to relate so deeply to my pieces, and to reach out to me and tell me how much this piece or that piece means to them. It honestly still surprises and flatters me a lot. But yes, my work is for me. It’s a form of self-expression before all else. I want to enact change, and I want to reach and affect others, but right now with my current state of health and my age, I’m just trying to make it through and my art is what’s helping me do that.
Has your art ever been on display?
Not in any galleries, no! I’m sure once I’m in art school it’ll be much easier though. I did get to do a feature with Dazed and Confused magazine, though which was such an immense honor. I also did an exclusive piece for Shade Zine which was surreal because of how much I look up to the angels I got to work with :-). I also do monthly contributions for Polyester Zine and had some work in their fourth print issue.
What are your favorite places in your city?
Well, there’s a small little street with “hip cool” boutiques, and some very lovely vintage shops that’s nice. But there’s two amazing museums here, and one of them actually houses one of my favorite Rothko paintings in it’s permanent collection, so I try to go as often as I can. Aside from that, there’s really not much else out here in the desert.
Around the world?
Well, I was born in Montreal, and that city just means so much to me. I would love to live there, honestly. Going back to live in my birth city is something I really hope to do at some point in my life. But aside from that I think that the Scandinavian Countries are very lovely, and I love how much a part of their culture art and art education is (I’m really refraining from ranting about art school tuition in the U.S.). I also adore the West-African coast and also really hope to spend time there someday. I visited Xian and Beijing China two years ago and I would go back to Xi’an in an instant. More locally though, I’m very much in love with the Redwood forest, or any place with tall, green trees. Ultimately, I just want to travel as much as I can, because living in America our society makes it so easy to forget that we’re nothing compared to these other, gorgeous nations.
How has the female role played a part in your life?
Well…It’s never easy identifying as a woman, and it’s never easy being a woman of color. But it’s definitely made me strong, which is such a cliche. But it’s a cliche for a reason. Identifying as a woman has taught me that so much of our strength is derived from having to deal with objectification, sexualization and harassment from men, and from society and the media as well. I grew up hearing that a woman’s role is to get married, have children and to be a good wife. I knew from a young age that the institution of marriage is greatly flawed, and not something I believe in. I have always prioritized myself and my future. I never think about children, because the notion of motherhood is not appealing and I know it’s not my duty to have and raise children. Being a woman is impossibly difficult, because we’re told to be independent, but independent women are deemed “selfish” and “bitchy”. We’re told that we have control over our bodies, but our lives are in danger if we want an abortion. Everything’s a paradox, some tiring contradiction or just plain hypocrisy when it comes to being a woman. But that’s nothing new. I could rant for ages about how being catcalled and sexualized has made me who I am today, but really the most important part about me identifying as a woman is how it ties into my identity as a Woman of Color. I’m thankful that I am a woman and that I am of color because it gives me a perspective that is vitally important to me for my art. I am so tired of men drawing women. They’ve been doing it since the dawn of time, and it’s finally time for women to be the ones drawing, and accurately depicting what it is like to exist and identify as female. So for me, the female role has become a gift, because it empowers me and allows me to be a part of that movement.