Shadia Heenan Nilforoush was born in Denver, CO, raised in Houston, TX, and currently resides in rural Connecticut. She received her BFA, with a minor in Psychology, from the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY in May 2014. Shadia is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Connecticut working in photo, video, performance, and installation. Her work seeks to reconcile adaptive and evolving identities, while questioning what it means to occupy space in and between multiple cultures. Shadia explores what happens when we shift between constructed identities and considers the emersion of a third self, as an amalgamation rather than bifurcation.
The journey to a broader awareness of one’s self is an essential part of the human condition. For some, forming a unifying bond with their race and religion easily traverses this. For others the journey may be marred by uncertainty of their past and present. By blood, I am Caucasian and Iranian. I am, as they say in Farsi, do-rageh, which translates as “two-veined.” However, my upbringing was predominantly Pakistani with hints of the American South. My childhood involved Arabic lessons at the Masjid, years of Islamic Sunday school, Bollywood films and attempts at eaves dropping on conversations in Urdu; the scent of cloves and curry, a brief stint in Girl Scouts of the United States of America – me with my bushy unibrow attempting to knit and sell cookies – a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, fried green tomatoes and canned jams, sticky summers in Kentucky, and vibrant colors of turmeric yellow and saffron red.
My work investigates and interprets identity in multiple ways, including: hybrid and ancestral identity, as insider/outsider, an adaptive movement through loss and change, and through reconfiguration of the self. When I consider identity, I also think of humanity’s inherent complexity. It is a pastiche of both circumstance and environment, which no two people can experience in exactly the same way.
Through the continued journeying of personal experiences, I have found and formed new identities. I shape-shift in and out of various personas all in search of the true self, or rather the non-self.