Queer Iranian Artist Paints Dictator’s Car

Written by | The Lens

Motion prevents death. If we remain stagnant for too long, we atrophy and decay, dissolving into the confines that tether us to our surroundings.

That’s why we should constantly explore what lies beyond the next bluff, the next corner, and the next horizon. The search for greater meaning outside our purview will always yield liberation, whether it is a freeing of the mind or simply an invigoration of the body.

There are many ways to assert your independence. Some LGBTQ individuals escape an abusive home, while other must flee an abusive society. Such is the case of Alireza Shojaian.

“I am from Iran, but to be able to continue my art, I had to leave my country,” Shojaian tells the New York Times.

He disciplined himself to create beauty out of rudimentary materials, capturing the rugged yet radiant veneer of the male form on slabs of lumber.

“Usually, I use colored pencils, which is a very light material that I had to carry with me, because I always had to be an exile,” explains Shojaian.

But the artist just upgraded his canvas in a major way. He transformed a vehicle that was gifted from the Shah of Iran to Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The limousine was a symbol of oppression wrapped in excess, so it deserved a defiant makeover.

Shojaian drew inspiration from two disparate sources: an executed Iranian athlete and a gay man who was beheaded by his own family. The two figures are martyrs in the ongoing protest against Iran’s abuses towards the LGBTQ+ community.

“They both are human beings,” Shojaian declares. “They both are children of this country.”

The likenesses of his modern subjects mingle with references to ancient Persian myths in a tableau of resistance. They represent humanity in the face of tyranny; the installation lionizes men who would rather die than conform.

And what better medium than a dictator’s used car?

“We need to work to educate the society,” concludes Shojaian. “Wherever there is injustice, we need to talk about it.”

As the rest of the world debates whether or not to destroy statues of confederate generals and other assorted historical monsters, Alireza Shojaian has demonstrated a better path forward. Let’s use those statues as blank slates and encourage disenfranchised artists to re-imagine them.

We can’t wait to see how Robert E. Lee will look once a new generation of visionaries gets their hands on him.

In the meantime, revel in the lessons of Shojaian’s recent car art. Next stop: enlightenment.

Last modified: November 19, 2021