Tafarrodi grew up in a middle-class family, a class which now has for the most part disappeared. Her husband, who had studied at MIT and was a general manager of a big factory under the Shah before the revolution, was persecuted under the new regime. He has since left Iran, and travels all around the world and the United States. “Probably loneliness makes me an artist,” Tafarrodi says. “Art became my friend, my company, my antidepressant.” Working on her dioramas gave her an opportunity to explore meaning, to figure out ways to put the abstract into concrete visuals.
While Tafarrodi’s dioramas can be seen as a way of capturing the colors, designs, and culture of her memories, there are also subtle sociopolitical observations. In one piece, you see two women in the same living space. One woman, her grandmother, is wearing a chador in prayer, while another woman, who is cutting sugar, is without it.
Tafarrodi explains that because the older woman is in prayer, she is in seclusion. She also notes that her grandmother was angry when she was young, as women were forced to take the chador off. “She complained about the king’s father, who made them become un-secluded,” Tafarrodi says.
Many years later, Tafarrodi and the women of her generation were angry that the chador was forced back on them. “They forced us to put that scarf on,” she says. “That was terrible. But it’s the same… force is force. Dictatorship is dictatorship. They did it with my grandma by taking off the chador and they did it with me by putting the chador on.”
Tafarrodi also contrasts the living situations of rich and poor. In side-by-side dioramas, she shows a woman who spends her entire life within one room, and another who lives in the utmost luxury. She’s gotten criticism for the piece, but she’s happy to illustrate what she sees as huge problems in Iran with the growing disparities between rich and poor. “They don’t like the truth,” she says of people who have written her angry letters. “But I’m very brave and I like to be faced with the truth.”