Astronomy: Imaging the Moon, 2020

Astronomy: Imaging the Moon, 2020

Imaging the Moon, 2020

Contemporary Iranian Art & the Historical Imagination
UMass Dartmouth, MA, 2020

An exhibition of contemporary Iranian artists reflecting on Iran’s history, politics, and cultural heritage

The inspiration and foundation for Imaging the Moon series stem from two extended visits to the British Library (London, UK) and the Chester Beatty (Dublin, Ireland) undertaken by Karimi in 2018-2019 to study a selection of Persian astronomy manuscripts. The manuscripts in the custodianship of these institutions reveal intricate drawings and explanations about the Moon and stars from a bygone era. In Imaging the Moon, she has appropriated diagrams and images from the medieval archival materials that include the Kitab al-Tafhim by Biruni, Suwar al-kawākib by al-Sufi and Ajayeb al-makhlūqāt by Qazvini.

Karimi has designed her plates as layered compositions of imagery. One layer reveals iconic scientific illustrations found in those early Persian scientists’ manuscripts; another presents her own interpretation and re-creation of astronomical diagrams, most importantly of the Moon. By combining the original, historical images with her own, in Imaging the Moon Karimi aims to create imaginary astronomical pages – a blend of the whimsical and archival. This layering process is her way of preserving these early works of astronomy and opens a door to consulting and collaborating with scientists who are long-gone, and their historical documents.


British Library, London, UK and Chester Beatty, Dublin, Ireland, 2018 and 2019


Astronomy: Countdown, Biruni, Galileo, Apollo, 2019

Astronomy: Countdown, Biruni, Galileo, Apollo, 2019

Countdown: Biruni-Galileo-Apollo, 2019

Solo exhibition at Mercury 20 Gallery


From an early age, Pantea Karimi was intrigued by Persian poetry where the playful use of metaphor sparked her imagination. She felt especially connected to the descriptive verse about astronomical subjects like the Moon. For her, it was magical and accessible, much the same as the night sky, which was mesmerizing from the desert near her hometown of Shiraz in Iran. The image of an oversized Moon left a lasting impression on her.

Karimi’s current research project has given her the opportunity to revisit her childhood obsession with the Moon, this time exploring it from the point of view of science. Her foundation and inspiration for this exhibition stem from a 2018 extended visit at the British Library, London, where Karimi studied the manuscripts of Galileo, the 17th-century Italian physicist and astronomer, and Biruni, the 11th-century Persian astronomer.

In Countdown: Biruni-Galileo-Apollo, Karimi’s multimedia works explore an ancient and enduring fascination with the Moon in science, culture and language, while simultaneously celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Mission. In these works, Karimi has appropriated ancient diagrams and images from archival materials in the custodianship of the British Library, including the Kitab al-Tafhim by Biruni and De Mundi Sphæra Tractatus Autographus cum Figuris by Galileo. These manuscripts reveal intricate drawings and explanations about the phases of the Moon from these early scientists. She also presents the poems of medieval Persian poets – the most renowned of their day – where the Moon is represented metaphorically and symbolically in verse.


British Library, London, UK, 2018

The Forgotten Women of Science, 2020 (#Metoo Project)

The Forgotten Women of Science, 2020 (#Metoo Project)

The Forgotten Women of Science, 2020

A Solo Exhibition at The San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles


In mid-2018, Pantea Karimi was invited to create a piece about the #MeToo movement for an exhibition in Sacramento, CA, during which The Forgotten Women of Science project was borne.

The Forgotten Women of Science features lesser-acknowledged female scientists, from ancient times to the nineteenth century when the suffrage movement took shape. Through multi-media works, texts and images, I challenge the inadequate recognition of female scientists in historic records by highlighting their names, stories, and achievements. The information for this exhibition is taken from libraries, articles, books, and online sources. I have showcased diverse countries and cultures but still, many names are not represented here, including the Iranian female scientists from the medieval to the nineteenth century. This is due to insufficient or contradictory data that she encountered in my research.

The Other Kind of Embroidery displays the scientific observation of nature and drawings by Mary Ward. As an artist, I have been interested in scientific manuscripts that were illustrated by scientists who had artistic abilities. I relate to Ward’s work both as an artist and a woman. I extracted images from her manuscript, The Microscope, which I studied at the Institute Archives at MIT in 2018. I screen-printed her scientific drawings on fabric, stretched them over embroidery hoops and stitched on the images using gold and silver threads. The circle shapes and hoops reference the microscope eyepiece and field of vision. I painted the hoops in black and white and printed the images with hues, which reflect Ward’s original color scheme in her illustrations. By printing Ward’s scientific drawings on fabric and stitching through them, I aim to bring attention to her scientific work and elaborate drawings through a conventional activity that was assigned to women at the time.

An Introduction showcases nine scientists whose works I found remarkable for their time and circumstances. Many images of early female scientists have not survived or are not suitable for artistic production. Using images I gathered, I digitally illustrated these nine scientists and composed the panels with diagrams, reflecting their scientific works, and their brief life stories. The layout of the panels and colors represent pages of manuscripts and scientific themes. The softness of hues and layered images symbolize their “forgotten” names in our current memories. In some of the panels, parts of their biographies are crossed out as a commentary on the inconsistency of profiles that I found on these women.

Apothecary features 200 bottles containing rolled papers of medical recipes from the medieval period that concern women’s health or beauty. The recipes are taken from the book The Trotula, an English Translation of the Medieval Compendium of Women’s Medicine (2001), edited and translated by Dr. Monica H. Green. These recipes, written by Trota of Salerno in the 12th c., address various health issues for women using herbs, plants, seeds, animal fat or bone, eggs, and wine, to name a few.

Solo Exhibition, Gallery of ArtFul Medicine

Montefiore Einstein, Bronx, NY, 2022

Lubna of Cordoba at a Collector’s Residence, San Francisco


The Institute Archives & Special Collections at MIT, Cambridge, MA, and
Marsh’s Library, Dublin, Ireland, 2018 and 2019

Astronomy: Sidereal Messenger, 2016-2022

Astronomy: Sidereal Messenger, 2016-2022

Sidereal Messenger, Stanford University, 2022

Site-specific commissioned installation


Sidereal Messenger, named after Galileo’s 1610 astronomical treatise, displays a constellation of wooden circles with textual and visual diagrams in the fields of optics and astronomy by Kepler, Tusi, Biruni, Hunain b. Ishaq, Copernicus, and Galileo among others. The commissioned installation by Stanford University, with the theme of Research, combines twenty-five wooden circles (2017) with seven illustrative aluminum pieces (2022) which reference Stanford University’s landmarks and fields of research in astrophysics and cosmology. These new images include the Dish, SLAC, and Hoover tower. The piece was installed in May 2022 at Graduate Residences, Building B, on the Stanford University campus.

Sidereal Messenger, NASA Ames, 2017


Sidereal Messenger is an installation of circle wood panels that form a constellation on the wall. The circles display textual and visual information on medieval and early modern optics and astronomy. The diagrams include those by Kepler, Tusi, Hunain b. Ishaq, the model of the cosmos by Copernicus, and the observation of the Moon by Galileo through his telescope. The overall color palette is inspired by a 2014 Hubble image of the universe.

I created this piece as a site-specific installation for Singularity University’s event at NASA Ames Research Center in 2017.


“Alhazen’s most famous work is his seven-volume treatise on optics Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics), written from 1011 to 1021. Alhazen studied the process of sight, the structure of the eye, image formation in the eye, and the visual system. Alhazen’s Book of Optics influenced the Perspectivists in Europe, Roger Bacon, Witelo, and Peckham. The Optics was incorporated into Risner’s 1572 printing of Opticae Thesaurus, through which Kepler finally resolved the contradictions inherent in a Ptolemaic explanation of the imaging chain, from the external object to the retina of the eye”

Cartography: Waters of Life, Waters of Death, 2016

Cartography: Waters of Life, Waters of Death, 2016

Medieval Maps, Waters of Life, Waters of Death, 2016


Waters of Life, Waters of Death, 2016, showcases the silhouettes of the medieval maps of four major bodies of water in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The pieces are accompanied by a video projection of the moving waves. The movements of the waves coming to the shore stand as a metaphor for the plight of the Syrian and Afghan refugees who frequently cross these waters on small, rickety smuggler boats to reach Europe, even at the cost of possibly being drowned. These bodies of water were historically sources of life and prosperity, and they facilitated exchanges of goods and ideas across the Middle East and Europe. Juxtaposing today’s waters against their images in historical times, I allude to the ironic contrast between today’s socio-economic and political circumstances and those of historic times. The silhouettes are modeled after maps in The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes by an 11th c. Arab cartographer and Routes and Realms by Estakhri, a 10th c. geographer and traveler.

Maps: the Caspian Sea, Bosphorus Strait, Gulf of Oman, Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea

Mapping a Gulf: The Persian Gulf and Tour of The Persian Gulf Album, 2016

Mapping a Gulf: The Persian Gulf Map and Tour of The Persian Gulf Album prints explore the history of territorial boundaries of the Persian Gulf regions through medieval maps of the masalik al-mamalik (Routes and Realms) manuscript and the photographic album, Tour of the Persian Gulf, 1916-18. Tour of the Persian Gulf is the photographic album of a British explorer, Rev. Edwin Aubrey Storrs-Fox, who resided in the area to drill oil. In these prints, I am looking at how the body of water, otherwise known as the Persian Gulf, was portrayed in medieval Persian maps, which was drawn in Estakhri’s 10th c. manuscript. The Persian Gulf is an important and strategic body of water, which lies between Iran to the northeast and the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest. I convert the Persian Gulf maps and the human figures of the Tour of the Persian Gulf photos into black silhouettes. By juxtaposing the black silhouettes that emerge from both the album and the maps, I allude to the politicized aspect of such mappings and recordings of the Gulf and aim to create a visual history of this strategic body of water. In these prints, the color black symbolizes oil, and the Persian Gulf water is portrayed in both black and turquoise colors.


The Islamic Document Museum and Malek Library
Tehran, Iran, 2016

Astronomy: Volvelles (Medieval Gadgets), 2015

Astronomy: Volvelles (Medieval Gadgets), 2015

Medieval Gadgets, Hybrid Volvelles, 2015


Volvelles are the first paper analog computers from the medieval period, which were made by hand and installed inside the scientific manuscripts to offer different astronomical calculations and to make the manuscripts interactive. The original volvelles used circle shapes fastened to a leaf in the center which held various layers in place so that the discs could spin independently. I create variously-sized Hybrid Volvelles that are composed of geometric shapes using silkscreen, ink, and watercolor on paper disks. I assemble these paper disks on wood panels and connect them with fasteners to allow independent spinning and interactivity. In some, I mix and match Persian, Arab, and European medieval and early modern scientific images and information with the aim to construct historical knowledge of various cultural points of view into one form. For example, in one of my volvelles, I layered Galileo’s manuscript page on the observations of the moon with the eleventh-century Persian astronomer Biruni’s observation of the moon’s diagram.

Research and Process

British Library, London, UK, 2015-2018