The Nation in Our Underwear

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A piece in Nat Brut on the work of Azita Moradkhani

“It started the first time I walked into Victoria’s Secret.”

Azita Moradkhani, an artist who has lived most of her life in Tehran, begins our phone conversation by excusing her English. She just learned it, she tells me, a few years ago to move to the United States for graduate school: Two master’s programs — one in art education; one an MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston — in three years.

Even if that kind of apology were ever necessary (it’s not), it’s especially not needed here. Her flow of speech is melodic, quick, the same kind of entrancing as the patterns in her work. She has just come back from yoga. Out the window on my end, the crickets have just begun pining in the half-lit sweetgrass.

“Lingerie stores are very private in our country: Men can’t walk in and they are usually hidden in the malls,” she tells me.

But Moradkhani, now living in the United States, found herself at the American lingerie behemoth, windows lined with slips of spandex and lace, models’ hips jaunting crocheted nothings over their crotches.

Moradkhani’s life and work were changing with her transition to the States.

Someone had menstruated pearls. A single red dot; an arching woman; fetal children curled. A grey pair washed with the ghostly image of a rape, men removing the garments of a woman inscribed on a garment herself; mesh forming the image of a sunglass-and-hijab-clad-woman.

But what made my eyes pause in their appraisal of the panties (80% nylon; 20% spandex) was the flags: A pair stained delicately saffron and green, decorated with a spinning wheel; an Israeli star bleached over pubic hair; Iranian reds and greens. Genitals gently tattooed with flags.

Moradkhani had made something out of those panties, her 2014 series Which Pair are Yours?


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