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Twin sisters combine new, old media for campus art show

Like most siblings, Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani fight. But the twin sisters’ differences aren’t rooted in the traditional childhood battles of who gets the last cookie or the shiny new toy.

Their arguments center on artistic direction. As classically trained painters, the Safarani sisters regularly collaborate on projects. And while they admit that their disagreements can get heated, they never hinder their ability to finish a piece.

“Our most successful works are the ones we do together,” Farzaneh explained. “We always fight. We come with the same skills and ideas, but arguing with each other helps a lot because it is two minds working on one painting.”

One of those successful projects is now on display at Northeastern’s Gallery 360. “Presence” opened on Wednesday and features paintings augmented by video.

Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani

The Safarani sisters graduated from Northeastern this month with Masters of Fine Arts graduate degrees. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Originally from Iran, the sisters, MFA’16, came to Boston to pursue their Masters of Fine Arts in studio art through a joint degree program of Northeastern and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. The program combines studio art courses at the museum school with art history courses and general electives at Northeastern, which is one of the reasons the sisters picked it.

“This program is very unique,” Farzaneh noted. “Because it is combined with the School of the MFA, it presents a lot more opportunities.”

The sisters were initially amazed that classroom conversations focused on concept and the inspiration behind their artwork. “In Iran, you learn the skills and techniques to be a painter and you never talk about the subject,” Bahareh explained. “But here, in addition to the skills, everyone wants to know about the subject or concept of your work. The professors didn’t care about the form you chose.”

Using videos to supplement their paintings was something the sisters started exploring about a year ago, after painting a scene with a tablecloth and wondering what it would be like to have the tablecloth move.

Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

“Showing videos on paintings has been done before,” Bahareh said. “What is important to us is figuring out what we want to project, what we want it to mean, and how it fits into the painting.”

“Presence,” which comprises six video-painting installations, depicts a female subject in various rooms of a house. The sisters said their objective was to offer various clues about who the woman is with the goal of having viewers make their own determinations.

“Presence” is on display at Gallery 360 until Saturday, June 11. An opening reception will take place Thursday, May 26, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the gallery. Visit the Galley 360 website for more information and gallery hours.