We had the good fortune of connecting with Termeh Behbahani and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Termeh, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
For me it was never an option. As a kid I always loved painting and dreamt about being a professional artist. I dreamt about getting asked about what I did for a living so I could proudly respond with “I’m a painter.” During high school in Iran I forgot about that dream. I convinced myself it wasn’t an attainable career and focused on studying to become a mechanical engineer. After moving to the United States and continuing with my math courses I knew something was missing. I wasn’t happy and wasn’t motivated. I decided to take one painting class to see if my childhood dream was more than just a dream. First day of painting class we were instructed to paint a bottle of wine. The moment my brush touched the canvas I knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. In that moment I felt something shift and I knew I had no other options but to paint forever. I immediately walked out of my class and called my parents at what would be 3 am for them. I screamed into the phone “I’m changing my major to painting!” and their only response was “we knew this was coming.” Since then, I have never doubted my choice. After getting my B.A in painting, I was asked if I will continue to paint or if I will pursue other career options. I never understood that question. To me there are no other options. Life as a full-time artist is not easy, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Now when someone asks me what I do for a living I simply respond, “I’m a painter.” My childhood dream has come true.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Since I have moved to the United States there has been times where I felt lost. Geographically and emotionally. I felt as if I was in limbo. So I decided to create my own environment. A space that doesn’t physically exist but never the less you can imagine yourself in them. I’m interested in the connection between real and fictional spaces. How can we assume the fictional spaces we create in our heads aren’t worth the recognition of a concrete physical environment? I bring my personal fictional spaces into reality by painting them. My work is filled with incomprehensible information as they are, but when pieced together they create a cohesive dialogue about the impact of our surrounding. I use abstraction to create these fictional environments to better conceptualize the hidden definitions behind our everyday interactions. I believe in honesty in ones work. I believe an artist has to be honest with themselves about the work they are creating, and it’s hard to maintain that honestly. Sometimes it’s easier to lie to ourselves but perhaps if we are able to find the truth behind our decisions, then we can create authentic work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We would start our day at Plow, one of San Francisco’s best known spots for brunch. After being fully satisfied with the lemon ricotta pancakes I would take them to the Legion of honor museum located at the top of Lincoln park. We would look their amazing collection of classical paintings and enjoy the architecture of the building. I would make sure to take them to Swensen’s ice cream and walk up some of the steep streets in the neighborhood while enjoying our ice cream. A quick drive down Lombard street and then head to Valencia street in the mission district. There we would walk around and enjoy the lively night life with a variety of restaurants to pick from for a delicious dinner.
As a coffee lover myself I would make sure we are both fully caffeinated throughout the week by visiting coffee shop like, Andytown and Trouble coffee in the sunset distrcit, Flywheel coffee in the panhandle, Farley’s and Linea coffee in the Potrero and Mercury cafe in Hayes Valley.
Some spots that I would definitely include in our week long itinerary is a walk down highway 1 by the beach. Best fish tacos in the city at Hook Fish in the sunset district. Saturday Farmers market at the ferry building and the outer sunset farmers market on Sundays. Walks around the city and hang outs in the Golden Gate park are a given when one visits San Francisco.
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 college professor Franklin Williams. As an established artist he was able to help me understand why we paint. He showed me how to trust my own intuition and decisions when it comes to my process. He gave me space to explore and guided me when I felt I was lost in my own work. He taught me how to stay true to my work and to always be honest with myself about my paintings. He encouraged me to push my own boundaries and challenge myself. Without his mentorship I wouldn’t have the same work ethic I have now. I will forever be grateful to everyone he has taught me.
Cover image taken by Stephanie Trapp