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Meet Paradise Khanmalek

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paradise Khanmalek.

Paradise, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a visual artist, poet, and graphic designer. I make and sell illustrated books of poetry, digital illustrations, books of my collected photographs, and clothing.

My art practice was built on bookmaking. I started making zines when I was 19. At the time, I was having a lot of fun exploring the textures and semiotics of collage and mixed media drawing. I was excited about drawing, and I wanted to share my work and the ideas I felt it represented, so I printed a collection of my drawings in a zine.

This zine was called “Golden Bitch,” and it contained collages, gel pen, and color pencil drawings, and short poems. I was so excited to share this book that I gave them out for free; I asked book stores and my university’s library to put a small stack at their front counter for people to take, I left them on buses and gave them out to friends.

From there, I started making a book of my collected drawings and poems about once a year. The following books, however, I began charging for. I remained tied to book media for several years, and I still make books. In 2017, I designed the graphic for the LA Zine Fest and gained more exposure to my work than I ever had. Within the last few years, I set up a website with an online store, and have been selling my books and illustration prints online.

Throughout all of this, I’ve also maintained an ongoing photography practice. I primarily take photos of glistening bits of reality: plants, light and shadow, and texture oases’ in my neighborhood. I’ve amassed a huge collection of photographs and, starting in 2015, I print and sell these photos on clothing. I use a website called PAOM.com (Print All Over Me).

And that essentially brings me to the present day. I write poetry, still make books, take photographs, design clothes with said photographs, and draw.

Has it been a smooth road?
Making art in and of itself has been a healthy creative refuge for struggles in other areas of my life. Selling art, however, is not easy and is still not a huge success. I currently work full time as a graphic designer. It is a struggle trying to maintain and push forward my art practice while working full time.

I simply don’t have enough time to take care of my health and home, maintain my connections, work full time, and push my art practice forward in the way I want to. But I do my best, and I have a relatively working balance at the moment. Whether I’m ever able to live off my work or not, my personal relationship to being creative and engaging visual and literary culture is sacred, special, and outside the bounds of capitalism. I love making art, and I love sharing my work.

I have the same excitement and desire to share my current projects and the concepts I’m exploring in my art that I did when I was 19 and giving away zines. My art is a direct medium for me to share my ideas and ruminations on reality in a way that feels personal and holistic. I want to share the concepts I’m playing with, not just the actual physical “product.” I’d like to make a living off my work so that I have more time to follow my creative visions and engage in this way (the real solution here is for our country to adopt universal basic income…)

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I write poetry, draw, digitally illustrate, take photos, design clothing, and self-publish books. I label a lot of my work as science fiction. I’m constantly reading science fiction and magical realism, and I draw inspiration from that umbrella of media. My poetry is an absurdist combination of harnessed stream of consciousness and regular narrative storytelling. I’m most proud of my most recent book of poetry, Majnoon.

Majnoon is a product of months of contemplation on love, sexuality, the fluidity of reality, and the ecstatic question and entropic nature of meaning. I originally wanted to make a queer woman’s rendition of the old tale “Leili and Majnoon” (Leili and Majnoon is about a man who is so enamored with a woman named Leili that he goes crazy).

I think this story falls in line with a larger cultural narrative that posits women as objects of love, and men as actors of love. I wanted to create something that not only challenges this sexist notion but also investigates my own body, mental landscape, experience, fantasy of, and ideas about love. My visual art practice primarily consists of digital illustration.

Within this arm of my creative practice, I like to draw figures, plants, environments, and textures that call the same science fiction and reality shifting concepts to mind that I work with in my writing. I’m most proud of a recent series of illustrations I have been working on that heavily utilizes patterns. I tend to draw figures that look like me; gender non-conforming brown people.

I enjoy positioning figures like this within my experimental digital illustration aesthetic because I feel like it makes the narrative around gender non conforming figures of color more complex.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and the least?
I love Los Angeles. What I like most about LA is the ethnic diversity. I feel most at home within it. What I like least about our city are the forces and systems that threaten said ethnic diversity.

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