What inspired you to create “Love Me Till It Hurts”?Panni Malekzadeh:
The girls in this show are my sister’s 17- and 18-year-old friends. I thought that it would be fun to a get a group of young girls together who are all obsessed with love and boys, makeup and prom, and so on, but don’t quite understand the pain and danger that can go with them. The paintings can be read differently: for example, love as pain, pain as pleasure—concepts that many teenage girls, and even many of us adults, don’t quite understand yet.TMN:
Describe your process—are these paintings from life?Panni Malekzadeh:
I gather my models first, usually two to four of them. Then I rent these elaborate costumes from an amazing hidden gem in Hollywood. Then I draw. Dozens, hundreds of sketches, ideas, doodles—just ideas on paper. When I finally figure out what emotion I want the painting to evoke, I set up an elaborate photo shoot. This can include costumes, birds, leather, whips, butterflies, everything! I shoot for about two hours, get on my computer, edit the photos, and pick the final shots. I then set up my studio to use a combination of the photos, the actual props, and the actual models to paint from.
If I had all the time and money in the world, all of my paintings would be done from life. The camera is garbage when it comes to capturing a feeling for a painting, but I do what I can.TMN:
You were inspired by the Playboys you saw as a child—are these paintings meant to be male fantasies, or female fantasies?Panni Malekzadeh:
These paintings are meant to be fantasies for everyone.TMN:
How do these works speak to your Iranian-American identity?Panni Malekzadeh:
It’s funny, because whenever I am asked where I am from I automatically say Iran, even though with my accent, I’m clearly American. With that said, the American in me is what allows me to even make what I make. It’s the reason there are so many Western components to my work. My paintings may not be direct political paintings of Iranian women in Iran or what is going in Iran currently, but look closely and you will see Iran everywhere in my work.