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On Exhibit: A Veteran’s Journey From a Life in War to Art

by Mariebelle Alagbate

From Iran to Thailand to the United States. For others, this may seem like an itinerary for an epic adventure. For Russel Fadavi, this was an itinerary for survival.

US Army veteran Fadavi shares an inspiring story of perseverance and resilience through his art portfolio of a visual diary, Journey, on exhibit at the Academy of Art Galleries until March 2, 2019.

More than having painting as a sort of therapy for him, Russel Fadavi has a much bigger intention with his realist works:

“I hope to draw awareness and empathy for the refugees and to encourage openness and change in the way our societies view refugees so they can find the courage and the vision to go beyond the fear and to see them as human beings with unique experiences.

Though my journey is a story of struggle and suffering, it is also a success story of determination, endurance, perseverance, and hope. Thus I wish to encourage and inspire those who are struggling to achieve their goals and dream in life.”

A gallery reception is happening on March 1, Friday, in honor of Fadavi’s Journey, from 5:30-8PM a the Cannery Gallery, Suite 110, 2801 Leavenworth St.

This exhibit features three series representing the three major periods of his life:

Post-Revolution Iran

Fadavi was born and raised in Iran at a time when the country was beset with wars and upheavals. He was 9 when the revolution ended in 1979, which ushered in the establishment of the Islamic government.

The revolution may have ended, but war was just beginning. As Iran struggled with internal strife and isolation, the neighboring state of Iraq took advantage of the situation and took Iran by surprise with their border invasion.

“Life without freedom under post-1979 revolution’s restrictions was like living in confinement.”

Transit in Thailand

In 1996, Fadavi made the difficult decision to leave his homeland in pursuit of freedom—to live, to paint. In this journey, he found himself in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was granted a refugee status by the United Nations.

However, as refugees are not legally recognized in Thailand, he had to undergo the legal process before departure, which included him being detained. “The humiliation of being treated like a criminal was much harder to deal with than the horrible condition,” he said.

And yet, as hard as that was, it still wasn’t the worst of it all.

“Leaving my son behind was the most heartbreaking experience I have ever had.”

 Living in American Freedom

Arriving in the Land of the Free in 2009 gave Fadavi a great spark of hope, but that’s not to say it was an easy path for him to take. Sadness and homesickness overwhelmed him, but he kept moving. It was here that a door of opportunity opened up for him to serve in the United States Army. This door was shut on him abruptly, however, when he had to retire on account of multiple service-connected injuries.

Far from being disheartened by this turn of event, Fadavi instead saw this as an opening—his window—to finally pursue his dream of becoming an artist. From there, he enrolled in Academy of Art University and is currently a MFA Painting student in the School of Fine Art.

So much happened since I decided to leave Iran 22 years ago now. If someone ask me, was it worth all the struggle? My answer is Yes! If I hadn’t taken the risk to leave home and endure the hardship, then I would miss out on living my dream.

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