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February 20, 2005

Art: The Other Voice of America Exhibit, ASL Interpreted Panel Discussions with Artists

From: SomArts Cultural Center - Feb 20, 2005

"ART: The Other Voice of America", an exhibition of political art, will be displayed at the SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA (415/552-2131) from March 3 through March 25, 2005. Reception is Thursday, March 3rd, 5:00p.m. Sign/ASL Interpreted panel discussions with artists and guest speakers are Saturday, March 12 & 19, 2005, 4:00p.m. – 7:00pm. Discussion topics are "Bridging the Gap: Art and Social Justice" and "The Artist's Role in Social Change". Exhibit web page is located at; follow Gallery, 2005 links to ATOVA page. Twenty five award winning artists are exhibiting works, including Deaf visual artist Orkid Sassouni of San Francisco.

Orkideh Sassouni

Biography & Artist Statement

Orkideh Sassouni was born in Tehran, Iran, and was discovered to be deaf at age three. She never went to the Iran School for the Deaf because her mother insisted that she be put in a regular school. When the Islamic Revolution started in 1979, her entire family escaped to Europe thinking the revolution would soon collapse. The family ended up settling on Long Island, NY, and Orkideh was put in a regular public school and had speech therapy everyday until she graduated from Great Neck North High School in Long Island, NY, in 1990. Orkideh thought she was the only Deaf person in the whole wide world until she saw "DEAF PRESIDENT NOW!" on television!

"Orkid" soon decided to go to Gallaudet University. Because she had never learned American Sign Language, she attended Gallaudet's three-week ASL Summer Program. She eventually became fluent in ASL. Orkideh also had to struggle with her parents, whose religious and cultural beliefs did not allow an unmarried Persian girl to go away to college.

Orkideh graduated from Gallaudet in May 1995 with a degree in Art History and Museum Studies. She was curious about photography and started with beginning Black and White photography at Gallaudet. Later, she took more photography courses where she fell in love with the darkroom and studio using a 4 by 5 Sinar Bron camera. This led her to advanced photography courses at the Parsons School of Design, where she spent one summer working as an archival intern in the studio of Annie Leibovitz, an internationally known photographer.

Orkideh Sassouni worked for three years as a Gallery Lecturer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her lectures were given in ASL and she was the first and only Deaf person employed at the Met. Later, she moved to San Francisco from New York to attend a graduate program at San Francisco State University. She received a Master of Arts degree in Creative Arts (Interdisciplinary Arts) in 2002. Being a bi-coastal woman who travels to and from New York often, Orkid currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

Artist's Statement:

"I have been photographing and still continue my on-going project of and about Deaf and hard of hearing individuals for more than two years. I traveled great distances around the east coast and the west coast to get inspiration for my photography project. "

"What made me start doing this project in the first place? I got advice from Annie Leibovitz, a well-known photographer, who suggested that I photograph my family and Deaf friends. I tried both to see how much I could capture. Slowly, I started photographing more and more Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. But soon my idea changed to more of a fine art of sign language and their life within me. I became fascinated with their pride, their energy, their most important tools in communication, their thoughts, and their self-conscious of the world outside. Today, I continue with my photography project about 'Being Deaf and Free-Spirits'. "

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