Shiraz, city of secrets …

“You can pluck a rose and it will stay fresh for seven days, but when you read one of my poems, the rose remains fresh eternally with dew in it every time you read it.” Sa’adi

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Memories of travel to Iran – Simin Saghafi – “Laurie Blum” an American painter & gardener visited Iran three times from 2003-2005. She was the first person allowed to paint on the grounds of the Garden of Paradise, Hafez’s Tomb, and Sa’adi’s Tomb after the guards fell in love with her work. She has met dignitaries from Iran and has been invited to exhibit at The United Nations, The National Arts Club, and Hafez’ tomb. Her love for Persian Miniatures, Hafez and the Persian language began when she was young and continues today.
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Later that year, I was introduced to Persian Miniatures through Nizami’s: Leyli and Majnun and instantly recognized my heart’s calling. I said, “This is my life and I have to paint these pictures!” I felt its poetical symbolism and imagery matched my beautiful inner world. I longed to express this! I began to paint from its Persian Miniatures. I realized that here was a symbolic language spoken through the paintings and the poetry and I was determined to grasp its meaning.
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In 2003-2004, I journeyed to Iran three times, spending three months painting in its glorious gardens on each trip. It was in Shiraz that I discovered my Inner Garden and I painted this Outer Garden: “The Garden of Paradise”, Bagh-e-Eram, which made me capable of painting the Inner Garden within me. In 2004, The Shiraz Cultural Institute told me my paintings resembled the ancient Shiraz School of Miniature Painting. They said they would be proud to call me a Shirazi artist from then on. I remembered that the Shiraz School painted the original Persian Miniature Paintings of “Leyli and Majnun” and I felt I had come full circle! The Shiraz School, with its predominantly Chinese influence was founded after Genghis Khan’s armies invaded Persia in the 14th century. Mongol rulers brought Chinese artisans through the Silk Road, the great trade route linking the East with the West.
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The Foreign Ministry granted me a show of my paintings at the Tomb Shrine of Hafez in Shiraz in December of 2004. Mr. Navid of The Shiraz Cultural Institute said, “Laurie is from the West and we are from the East but her paintings show the Real Dialogue Among Civilizations.” I asked him what that meant and he said, “Our President Khatami gave a speech and said, ‘What we need is not war between Civilizations but the Real Dialogue among Civilizations.'” Mr. Navid explained to the group, “Artists might say this line isn’t right or that line isn’t right, but Laurie paints with Feeling, and that’s something new!” In 2007, the paintings were exhibited at the United Nations: “Shiraz, City of Paradise, The Real Dialogue Among Civilizations.”
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I revel in the joyful divine fragrance issuing from the unseen realms mirrored in the ecstatic form and movement of the birds, flowers, and Nature’s magical living landscape. I call this my Inner-Outer World. This is how I can bring Heaven on Earth! It is already here, if one knows how to extract its essence like a perfume and open the container to release its fragrance. I do not want to tell a story with my art, I wish to reveal the intoxicating expressions I see-feel in Nature and Nature’s perfect symmetry that is timeless.
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My gift from God is the interpretation of beauty and feeling from the unseen world with my brush onto paper. Since finding the Garden of Paradise in Shiraz, Iran, my Inner and Outer World have become One. I paint what I feel and I am a medium for this work of transferring this awareness to the world. This is my Living Art.
When I left Iran in Jan 2005, I went to India and spoke with nephews of Mehrbaba. When I spoke about my opinion and he saw my painting he said that Mehrbaba said: “Shiraz is the most beautiful city on Earth” So there is something special for the lucky people who live in Shiraz ! there is a secret! Shiraz for me means a city of secrets and Hafez invites you to go to his garden where he is and Shiraz … and to find a friend … and the friend I found was my inner soul and the happiness and joy …
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My work is not just painting !These flowers that God put here are here because they are not only beautiful , they are not only smell good but they are healing … Is not a favorite thing to visit a garden or to surround owns elf with a garden I know Persian people have gardens that is important so they realized this the world needs to realize this. The world needs to know that what is in Iran is something magical and very secret. I hope they can appreciate it.

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