|R O S H A N H O U S H M A N D
As an Iranian/American painter who was raised in the Philippines and Iran, with a Dutch-American mother and a
Persian father, my roots are steeped in ancient patterns and textures. My formal education in the arts however
was absolutely Western, with a BA from Bennington College and a MA and MFA from Rosary Graduate School of
Fine Arts in Florence, Italy. It is in only in the past few years that I have been returning to my eastern roots
through continued studies of traditional miniature, and thangka painting in India and Nepal.
My life’s journey has been based on making art for the past forty years. It has been the only constant for as long
as I can remember. My process feels ritualistic, and I am often guided by intuition, and a sensitivity to the formal
relationships in paint.
This site has a collection of my work from different series. The work after the "event paintings" reveals a search
for a more personal and spiritual connection with my art, incorporating Persian calligraphy, block prints, collage
and painting. These works are reminiscent of a past inspired by the culture of Iran, where I spent my formative
years. The arid land and then the release of petrichor - referring to the distinctive aroma released when rain falls
on dry land, activating certain compounds in the soil.
The "Flora and Fauna" works address artistic traditions of the past, examining relationships between symbol,
pattern and chance. The paintings offer a unique dichotomy characteristic of anomalous encounters, in this case
eastern and western. Integrating elements of the east in a western context, and visa versa, form becomes
content as one becomes a metaphor for the other. The decorative becomes iconic. This investigation into and
reinterpretation of Asian motifs is a personal, rather than purely historical quest into the universality of certain
The “trailscript” paintings are inspired by poetry, travel and prayer of the east, and they mysteriously evolved from
the “Event Paintings” which are based on lines and images of particle trails from bubble chambers which I
discovered after attending a lecture on theoretical physics by Brian Greene. Many of these early works were
featured on Brookhaven National Lab’s website for their 60th anniversary in 2007 (http://www.bnl.
gov/60th/houshmand.asp) and later in Symmetry and Cosmos science magazines (http://www.symmetrymagazine.
Certain common denominators flow through each series involving exploration into concepts of tradition, chance,
change, space and desire. These are process paintings with an aesthetic that has developed in and out of the
abstract through process. The visual mark is an autobiographical code, a form of script, and is an event in itself
accumulating into a creative process that allows the painting to grow without a conscious need to be in control.
The concept of multiple layers of paint, hidden and revealed, reflects states of change and purification of concept,
and every event in my visual world is the effect of an "image", as in Plato's notion of idea. Each layer addresses
emotion, memory and intellect; markings that correspond with life genetically, culturally and experientially, only to
be covered by another experience, ritualistic in process, tactile in sense, and visual in perception until the work
Painting is a type of meditation for me. It's a timeless process where I disconnect and focus on the colors,
symbols and textures in front of me. I often listen to silence or teachings and sutras when I work in the studio. I
have been painting all my life.
UNDER THE BODHI TREE and WORKS INSPIRED BY TIBET
Living and adjunct teaching in a rural community in upstate NY allows for ample time to create art, but travel is
essential to feed my soul and provide material and inspiration to work with. In the past seven years I have
made seven trips to India and two to Nepal, and my art reflects the journeys which have brought me closer to
my Iranian roots, fulfilling the needs for a deeper spiritual connection to my work. These travels have included
extensive studies of traditional miniature painting in Jaipur, India as well as Buddhist thangka painting and
drawing traditions in Dharamsala, India and at Tsering Art School at Shechen Monastery in Boudhanath,
I began painting thangkas as an aid to my Buddhist meditation and visualization practices and have spent
several years studying Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting and drawing. Rather than continuing to focus on
producing this sacred art form, I use what I have learned to produce a more personal, tactile and process-
oriented style of work. My meditation practice now primarily takes place in the studio, making art, often listening
to teachings of high lamas from the various Tibetan Buddhist lineages as well as from the Rime movement. For
several years I have been working on the series “Under the Bodhi Tree” which includes intimate collages and
paintings on paper and wood, as well as large scale paintings, revealing melodic fusions of the eastern and
western traditions and techniques of art. The work is calm and meditative, as is my process, sparked with
disparate motifs, textures and color. Containing elements of the traditions I have studied, fusing eastern motifs
and intention with a more painterly, abstract and western context of experience, the work is autobiographical
on many levels as revealed through process, intention and need. The east is a metaphor of the west and vice
versa. That is what this work is about.
I began the “Under the Bodhi Tree” series after my first visit to Bodhgaya, India in 2015. Guatama Buddha
attained enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya and each work in the series has a
single leaf from the tree, collected while visiting. I returned to Bodhgaya in the winter of 2018 to collect more
leaves from the Bodhi Tree, with the help of the local gardeners and monks who seemed rather curious about
my avid leaf-collecting activities between periods of meditation under the Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi
The works on paper measure about 11.5 x 8.5 inches and are on recycled ledger paper from Jaipur. The
paper is traditionally prepared and used for miniature paintings. The Hindi or Urdu script is typically painted
over, but I often keep it visible adding a pictorial “found object” element to the work. The series also includes
mixed media works on wood panel, with larger works on canvas. Other elements include sheet music from my
recently passed mother who was a violinist as well as textile remnants collected while traveling in Gujarat, India
which are suggestive of the textiles and patterns I grew up with in Iran. Gouache is used as the painting
medium on the works on paper, while the larger paintings use acrylic and oil paints. Aside from the paint and
some surfaces, most of the elements used in this series are recycled, including the paper, the leaves and
fabric remnants, giving them a new life and identity.
I had the great fortune to live in Iran from 1969-77, from when I was 8 until 16 years old. My memories of the
country are very sensual, based on the art, the culture and the landscapes. My mother was a foreigner, an
anthropologist and violinist who did her best to expose her children to the wonderful arts of this culture she so
loved. We traveled often to the north and south and were regular visitors at the kare-dasti handicraft stores in
Tehran and the small factories in the bazaars of Esfahan where we watched the metal workers and block
printers making their craft. These were incredibly mesmerizing, rich experiences for me as a child. When we
drove to Esfahan or other parts of the country we would pass the ruins of old caravanserai along the
highways, sometimes stopping to explore. I’ve made many paintings about those experiences; artifacts and
architectural relics in the desert; silence, light and wind.
It was on a recent trip to India where I was able to develop my artistic sensibility through encounters with
traditional craftsmanship and indigenous art forms. I stayed in mud huts in Gujarat and was flooded with
memories of my youth in Iran. In this tribal region of western-India known for elaborate embroideries and textile
designs, women traditionally build and decorate circular huts using mud and camel dung, decorating the
interiors and exteriors with mirrors and leaves, using their fingers to create a relief of geometric pattern
surrounding the small mirrors. This was a more primitive and simplified version of a tradition I had seen long
ago when I was raised in Iran. Here it was a woman’s task to decorate the simple huts, whereas in Iran the
mirror work was dedicated to decorating mosques and palaces by “masters”.
It was on this same trip that I visited South India and had the good fortune to wander through residential
neighborhoods and discover the Rangoli or Kolam which are traditional linear designs created by women using
rice flour on the thresholds of the home. They are auspicious, and temporal, preventing bugs from entering
the home, as they feast on the rice flour designs that are created each day before sunrise, destroyed by the
end of the day by the trampling of footsteps of anyone or anything that enters the home.
Back in the studio with bags of mirrors and camel dung along with my photographs of the Kolam which I began
to research extensively, I developed a series combining these elements and images; ancient women’s
traditions rarely seen unless one travels far. The mirrors are small offering fragments of reflections of reality
rather than complete images. I like the mirrors because they are a constant source of light, even in the darkest
moments, the mirror will always find a way to emit light. Having lived and traveled extensively all over the world,
I relate well to the concept of a fragmented life, one that only time is gradually piecing together to make a
These works are inspired by my eastern roots, but it is my life in the west that has provided a western context
of experience, of abstraction, where the east becomes a metaphor of the west, and vice versa.
“trailscripts” is a body of abstract paintings created during a transitional, and experimental period of about 5
years between the “event paintings” and “Under the Bodhi Tree” series which are both much more specific in
both form and content. As the title suggests, “trailscripts” implies a path and a form of writing – or message.
At the time I was not sure where my work was going, but I knew I was in transition, on a path towards something
more spiritual and more personal. “trailscripts” was about line as language, and language as line.
By 2009 I was on my way to learning about meditation and Buddhism and would eventually continue furthering
my studies with courses in traditional Indian miniature painting and sacred Buddhist thangka paintings. I was
exploring and experimenting with different types of line and learning about eastern philosophies and art forms.
Although the work was inspired by sources as diverse as calligraphy, ancient Asian pottery, physics and
specific works of Miro, the results were organic, spontaneous and paradoxical. The “trailscripts” paintings
intuitively explore the language of line in a range of dimensions. I was comforted by the predictability of
pattern and culture yet challenged by the spontaneity of chance and life.
I felt a need to develop a more personal relationship with my work. I was born in the Philippines in 1961 and
lived in Iran from 1969-76, but as an Iranian/American, returning to Iran to explore my roots was complicated.
Having lived in the west since then, I felt the need to somehow connect with my roots, so I visited India, where I
traveled extensively. My imagery and use of line was becoming more articulate, combining elements of pattern
and chaos from the traditional and decorative arts I was exploring.
These paintings represent a time in my life when I was searching for a more personal relationship to my work,
as well as a more spiritual connection to my life, which I found through traveling and studying the arts and
culture of the Himalayas. They are autobiographical in their intimacy and unconventional use of line and
pattern. I was on a path that would eventually become less abstract. It took several years for me to fully
understand, through hindsight, the true meaning and profundity of this series, “trailscripts”.
This is a collection of oil paintings about particle physics inspired by a lecture I attended by theoretical
physicist Brian Greene. Primarily working in black and white for several years, these “Event Paintings” are
about line; a perfect line whose trajectory and curve could provide the scientific scholar with a tremendous
amount of information, as derived from the images from labs at CERN and BNL. I suppose what impressed me
most about that lecture was that there are, mathematically speaking, eleven dimensions to reality. This was the
beginning of my comprehension of the dissolution of self, and I didn’t even know it at the time. All I knew was
that this concept provided a great relief for me, in that I was not as important or significant as I had been led to
believe during my 40 plus years of being alive. In the “Event Paintings” I am working with paths and curves
unseen until I began studying the effects of particle trails based on images from particle accelerators.