I am an Iranian-American multidisciplinary artist, researcher, and educator based in San Jose, CA. I research historical documents and early illustrated scientific manuscripts from Persian, Arab, and European cultures for their unique representation of knowledge in visual forms. In my work, I primarily focus on mathematics and medicinal botany because my extended family passionately introduced these topics to me as a child. I connect with them emotionally because they represent my cultural heritage, traditions, way of life, and system of thinking.
To construct narrative in my works, I visually adapt scientific themes to images and motifs which I contextualize within global religion and politics while referring to my gender, upbringing, and the Iranian diaspora. I hone and communicate my perspective via this disparate yet interconnected juxtaposition of traditional cultural aesthetics and syncretic imagery.
Utilizing a variety of media from virtual reality, animation, sound, drawing, and print to performative video and installation, my body of work includes multiple thematic series. Within each, I seek to introduce and stimulate consideration of my point of view as it is informed by contemporary societal, geopolitical, and environmental issues, conflicts, and uncertainties.
Pantea Karimi worked and studied in Iran and the UK before she settled in the US in San Jose, California, in 2005. Karimi’s family and life experiences as a two-time immigrant, have influenced her approach to art-making and the themes that attract her.
At age 14, Karimi began her training in fine arts and classical music alongside her school studies in science in post-revolutionary Iran, convoluted by religious indoctrination. Karimi’s family is rooted in Shiraz, Iran, where herbal medicine has been a prevalent tradition since the medieval period. Karimi’s mother, a history teacher, stimulated her interest in art and history, her grandmother inculcated a lifelong connection to medicinal botany, and her father, a mathematician and architect, inspired her interest in math and geometry.
Karimi’s prints and digital works have been exhibited in diverse solo, group, and traveling exhibitions in Iran, Algeria, Germany, Croatia, Mexico, the UK, and the United States, including de Young Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Google, NASA Ames Research Center, San Jose City Hall, San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, Triton Museum of Art, New Bedford Art Museum, and Rotch Library at MIT. Karimi’s works are held in private and public collections at YouTube, Stanford University, University of California, San Francisco, and University of California, Davis. Her art has been featured in several publications and media in Iran, Italy, Croatia, the UK, and the United States including an article and interviews with the KQED Public Radio’s Arts & Culture and KQED Forum (2020, 2022, and 2023).
Karimi is the 2023 Kala Art Institute Artist Honoree and recipient of a second Artist Residency at MASS MoCA (2024), Santa Fe Art Institute Sovereignty Artist Residency (2024), Montalvo Art Center’s Lucas Artist Program Residency (2024-2026), Dickinson Teaching Artist Residency at Harker School (2023), Pollock-Krasner Foundation Artist Grant (2022), Mass MoCA Artist Residency (2022), University of California San Francisco Library Artist Residency (2021), City of San Jose Arts and Cultural Exchange Grant (2019), Silicon Valley Artist Laureates Award (2019) and Kala Fellowship-Residency (2017).
Pantea Karimi is a member of the Substantial Motion Research Network (SMRN), a media and philosophy discussion group, associated with the Simon Fraser University in Canada. Karimi holds Master’s Degrees in both Graphic Design and Fine Arts and is currently an Adjunct Faculty of Studio Arts and Digital Media at the College of San Mateo.
Photos by Carolina Porras Monroy, Studios at MASS MoCA, May 2022.