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Las Vegas art called commentary on U.S. survivalism obsession

It has been a decade since Ali Fathollahi of downtown Las Vegas and his wife, Nanda Sharif-pour, moved from their home country of Iran to Turkey, and later Las Vegas, in search of political freedom.

Fathollahi and Sharif-pour were professors in Iran. They led a private school from their home that allowed their students to have freedom of expression in the art they created, Fathollahi said.

“The government there is not very happy with large groups of young people getting together and discussing free thinking and being open-minded — trying to go beyond the norm that have been limiting our society for years,” Sharif-pour said.

When they came to America, though, Fathollahi immediately noticed what he called an obsession with fear. It prompted him to research the topic, which formed the thesis for his master’s degree at UNLV: “Saccharine Reckoning.” It critiques America’s obsession with survivalism as both a lifestyle and an ideology, motivated by fear and nostalgia, Fathollahi said.

“Everything started in research,” said Fathollahi, 40. “But I noticed that there’s always this fear that someone is attacking us all the time. So for my thesis, I went deep in this concept of being prepared for some disaster and I found different levels of it.”

For three months, an exhibit that is a continuation of the thesis will be available for people to view downtown near Hoover Avenue and South Fourth Street inside Soho Lofts. The installation will remain on display until November, according to Laura Henkel, owner of ArtCulture PR, who worked with Fathollahi and the property owner at Soho Lofts to set up the exhibit. Every three months, exhibits from a new local artist will appear, she said.

“They’re self sustaining installations,” Henkel said. “To me it was a win-win to work with Soho Lofts with a vacant space and be able to utilize artists whose work would look good night and day.”

One of Fathollahi’s sculptures is composed of survival objects including a spear, a gas can, a chainsaw, jumper cables and beer. The other is a door with the word “Reckoning” written on a slate of wood in the front of it.

“It’s showing how obsessed we are with being prepared for a disaster,” Fathollahi said. “But in reality, there is nothing that can truly prepare us for these things. If doomsday or something similar happens, there’s not much we can do. Fear is used to control us, and we must overcome that.”

Fathollahi and Sharif-pour both have two master’s degrees.

“I’ve been teaching at UNLV since 2013, and this fall, I have a special topic in art history that teaches about traditional Persian painting,” said Sharif-pour, 37. “I designed the course and came up with everything from scratch. Art goes beyond borders and languages, and if I share it with others they might find the same as I did. If I’ve been healed by something I created, maybe someone else is dealing with the same thing and is going through the healing process and my work can help them.”

Contact Mia Sims at msims@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0298. Follow @miasims___ on Twitter.

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