We had the good fortune of connecting with Natalie Abbassi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natalie, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I am the daughter of two artists, so creativity was always appreciated in our home. My father is a retired stained glass artist and my mother is a French translator who’s always dreamt of living off of her paintings and crafts. From ages 9-20 I grew up in Iran with my father and siblings where all students choose their majors in 10th grade: Mathematics and Physics, Biology, and Literature being the main three. Or the Arts. I applied, took an entry exam, and got accepted into a prestigious art school in Tehran. But I went into Mathematics and Physics instead, wrongly thinking it would make my family more proud. It was a long 3 years, and I often found myself day dreaming of reversing time and changing my choice of study. After receiving my High School Diploma in Mathematics and Physics I moved to the United States to reconnect with my mother and attend college in North Carolina. This time I wasn’t going to study in the same field; I was going to get an art degree! I started focusing a lot of my studio time on photography, and lectures on art history. The evolution of art from cave painting as a means to communicate to Picasso’s cubism movement as a means to express oneself is beyond fascinating to me. Art has so many forms, from writing to painting to theater to comedy to fashion to dance and that means we all have our avenues to express ourselves in one way or another! Whether you like it or not, you’re probably an artist too! Artists and designers have had their minds and hands in everything around us for as long as history can teach us: the money in our wallets, the colors of our walls, the fonts we type, and even the buttons on our clothes. The real question is: Why wouldn’t I want to pursue a creative path?!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
For a period of time I was pursuing a career in photography where a project of mine, “Self Study”, became popular and even received a mention from Nina Berman on Guernica (www.guernicamag.com), and published in a couple of magazines emphasizing women in photography. In my project I tried to study, and express, myself as an American-Iranian where I portrayed both sleves in one frame with each image telling a story about both who I am, and the cultures that made me. Not long after, I joined The Conservation Fund as their field documentary photographer where I learned the role of story telling in photography, and the silent human connections that are made while traveling to underserved communities on the East coast. In 2015 I loaded my little Honda Civic with as much as it could carry and moved cross country to California to pursue something different from what I had known and grown so comfortable with in North Carolina. I started a job conserving, scanning, and archiving vintage negatives for a curatorial company where I learned just how much I love and absolutely adore organizing art, and learning about the lives of artists and creators I had never heard of before. It’s been 3 years since that discovery, and I’m now an art collection manager with a push on adding more skills as an interior designer!
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?
You gotta hit up all the landmarks! I never tire of taking guests to the Griffith Observatory, especially on clear nights. Nerding out to space, plus a gorgeous view of L.A.? Yes, please! Of course selfies with the Hollywood sign is a must after a fun hike at Runyon Canyon. The Hollywood walk of fame, and the Santa Monica Pier are also my go-tos, especially for first timers. If there’s willingness to pay the outrageous entry fees, I’ve also been known to take visitors on trips to Warner Bros. Studio, Universal Studios, and Disneyland because DUH! It’s so fun, and at times we’ve even been able to watch live shoots! It doesn’t get more L.A. than that! Museum way is a great day trip destination with art, history, and science all in the same spot. My mom especially enjoyed the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. And I never forget the beaches and gardens! From Malibu to Laguna Beach to Huntington Library, it’s just too beautiful not to share (or show off) with out-of-town visitors. Food wise I’d have to say tacos tacos, and more tacos, KBBQ downtown, authentic asian cuisines in East L.A., fresh fish sandwiches in the beach cities, and good ol’ Persian food and saffron ice cream in Westwood. Want a fantastic steak? Try any of the Hillstone restaurants, they do not disappoint!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My biggest and loudest shoutout, without even a spec of doubt, would go to my funny, talented, and patient boyfriend Laath! He’s been by my side when I was unsure I could make it in the art world, when I would break down my own confidence with the stresses that come with living in a city like Los Angeles, and he was there celebrating my successes with more vigor than any cheerleader. (with a gin martini, of course!) He’s been more than a rock… He’s been my mountain! So many thanks to my parents, Bahram and Nicole, for always trusting my choices and teaching me how to think for myself. To my older sister, Tiffany, who has been a complete rockstar at grabbing life by the horns and teaching me the true strength of being a women in the modern world. To my college professor, Leah Sobsey, who not only taught me how to use a camera and develop images in a darkroom, but the history and evolution that both chemical and machine (analog and digital) have gone through to have places in the world yesterday and today. I learned from her that there’s no full understanding without learning history and origin. And to my oldest friends David Peng, and Tri Nguyen who also followed west on I-40 all the way to SoCal, and have brought with them their undying support, kind understanding of life as a non-native Angelino, and Chupa the cat who enjoys a full high from the fumes of my tennis shoes every time I visit.