We had the good fortune of connecting with Bita Masoumi and we’ve shared our conversation below. Bita is a prominent California-based visual artist and the founder of the “Recycled Painting” movement. Her work has been displayed at famous galleries in the United States and featured in major media publications.
Hi Bita, why did you pursue a creative career?
I am a Visual Artist and Graphic Designer. I am the founder of “Recycled Painting,” which consists of painting on discarded materials such as paper packaging. I painted on the backside of paper packaging, mostly from food products, with a message of fighting against food waste.
I grew up with my painter grandfather in Tehran. I first fell in love with painting in my grandfather’s studio when I was a child. The painting was like magic, and looking at my grandpa painting was the most beautiful memory of my childhood. As a kid, I knew I wanted to be a painter, just like grandpa. When I was 9, my parents realized I had talent, and they took me to a painting class to refine my skills.
By the time I began university, I had lost my father, and painting had become a strictly emotional experience. This led me to pursue graphic design in college and keep painting as a private practice—a therapeutic and emotional outlet. The emotional shock of my father’s death was the beginning of a journey of self-discovery, and painting and drawing was my main tool in this journey. The momentary drawing on anything turned into a need; to take control of my emotions and thoughts. When I was feeling heavy emotions, I felt the need to draw. I was drawing on anything. That’s how I started to draw on paper packages. Later, I started to paint on food packages since food waste became my obsession.
In college, I found Graphic Design a natural fit. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. My Bachelor’s research thesis has been published as a design source book in Iran. After graduating, I studied multi-media design in Malaysia and received an MA in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). I exhibited my designs since 2004, but I kept my paintings private until 2017, when I decided to present my art to the public in my first solo painting exhibition in LA. Since 2017, I have had group shows and solo exhibitions showcasing my paintings.
To sum up, becoming a painter was a childhood dream. After my father’s death, painting helped me to heal the pain of grief; it was a therapeutic and emotional outlet. Later, I had exhibitions, was invited to shows and events, and slowly my career got shaped. However, it’s still a therapeutic tool to release my emotions. Whenever I feel the need to paint, I paint. Besides, my art is a tool to discuss the social and environmental issues that matters to me, such as food waste. I believe art has power, and artists can use this power to make a positive change to make this world a better place to live.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am the founder of “Recycled Painting .” Recycled painting is painting on waste materials such as paper packaging. You can find the Recycled Painting Manifesto on my website https://www.bitamasoumiart.com/ . First, Recycled Painting is against waste such as food waste. Second, it is an eco-friendly practice because it uses discarded material as a canvas.
I have a unique technique of accessing my subconscious mind when painting. So, the content of my paintings is wherever my subconscious mind takes me, from literal subjects to conceptual and symbolic. I paint mainly on the backside of paper packages, especially food packages, which come from my obsession with food waste. My paintings tell stories about death, life, war, sexuality, growth, pain, femininity, & identity on account of my obsession with food waste. I paint with marker, pen, and acrylic colors because they are quick tools that help me with momentary drawing.
I am always excited about my next paintings. Every single painting is an excitement for me. Painting on a surface that is not rectangular or square is adventurous and exciting. When I buy food, I keep the paper packaging, then open the packages to make them flat, and if it has a good size, interesting shape, and good texture paper, I use it for my next painting as my canvas.
Painting on food garbage packages is my painterly protest against food waste. I hope my art can create a response from the audience, whether it is transferring emotions or conveying a message. People should think about how much food they waste everyday. People ask me sometimes, “why do you paint on waste materials and food paper packaging?” I am glad when they ask such questions. It can spark a discussion that has an effect.
To me, art is a journey. I have learned a lot on this journey. I’ve learned that facing challenges or hardships always has a positive aspect. If I listen to my heart and be patient, I can find the positive side.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would start with Galleries in LA downtown, LACMA, and Getty museum; then Huntington Beach, New port beach, Santa Monica Beach, and Venice Beach are the best to enjoy biking, swimming, sunshine, and nature.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My grandfather was the first person who helped me to become an artist. Then, my parents encouraged me and supported me through the journey. My grandfather and my parents get the most credit for my story; without their encouragement and support, I couldn’t make it.
Some of my teachers helped me to grow as a creative person. A few galleries and art curators helped me develop my Art career, such as Seyhoun Gallery and Agora Gallery.
Photos by Alireza Teymouri