Iranian-born and American artists have joined forces to donate works to an online fundraising campaign for fellow artist Laleh Khorramian, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The campaign will raise funds for Khorramian’s cancer treatment not covered by medical insurance.
Through a silent auction, supporters can contribute to the fund and ensure Laleh Khorramian receives the treatment — including both holistic and conventional approaches — she needs. The auction features work by a wide range of innovative artists, including Kara Walker, Shirin Neshat, Mika Rottenberg, Marylin Minter,and Rirkrit Tiravanija. It presents a chance for the public to support Laleh Khorramian — and offers a unique opportunity for art collectors.
The auction closes at 6 pm Eastern Standard Time on November 5.
IranWire spoke to Laleh Khorramian and her friend and fellow artist Mika Rottenberg about the initiative.
Laleh, can you tell us about your condition and why you are seeking alternative treatment?
LK: Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with a very advanced stage of Hodgkins Lymphoma. I underwent chemotherapy for cancer through conventional treatment and have been in remission. After undergoing chemo, I became very curious about alternative methods andbegan to research all kinds of treatments available, traditional and alternative. Cancer’s prevalence means there are always new studies and new methodologies in trial.
This past summer I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. This time, armed with more knowledge, I can decide on a treatment approach that includes traditional and non-traditional care. There is much discussion about what causes cancer. What I appreciate about holistic medicine is that it is that it looks at the disease and the cause,
therefore not only dealing with the very urgent matters but also addressing the possible origins. The discussion includes the possibility of genetic, toxicity, mold, diet, emotional disturbances, psychological stress, toxic environments, and more. The holistic view of the disease asks that a vast number of things are addressed in the long term. This makes sense to me.
Mika, can you tell our readers about how you got to know Laleh and her work?
MR: Laleh and I met at Columbia University in New York City while doing our Master’s in Fine Art in studio art. We became and have remained very close friends and studio mates since graduating in 2004.
Laleh, what impact has cancer had on your work? What’s your focus at the moment in terms of your art?
LK: As big events in our life inherently charge us and change us, those changes are usually manifest more subliminally than we anticipate. I'd never consciously make work about my cancer experience.
For the past two and half years I've been primarily expressing myself through LALOON, my handpainted clothing line.
MR: Laleh is known for her beautiful animations and large drawings, but she has also been making clothes and found a way to cross a line between painting and design. I don’t think her medical condition had a direct influence on her work, although she did make an amazing erotic film, I Without End, after going through cancer treatment 10 years ago.
Why did you decide to launch the fundraising site and initiative?
MR: Laleh’s medical costs are so high and insurance isn't willing to cover anything she is trying to do holistically. Immediately following her diagnosis, she was in a kind of shock. As her friends, we’ve had to convince Laleh to do fundraising. She is very private and didn’t want her story public, nor did she want it to be what people identified her or her artistic work with. Though at first she wasn't comfortable with it, we've been able to persuade her to allow us to show our love and support for her through a silent art auction. Laleh is part of an incredible community of artists, some of the most groundbreaking artists working today. We've all rallied to show our support and the result is a great opportunity for collectors.
LK: Once the auction was posted on Facebook it became public. Then we were approached by the media, so I decided to scrap my pride and express what it was that I found critical in all this. I can’t speak for anyone else but myself. But I find the hardest part of going through something like this is the psychological and emotional effects. The surgeries and what you physically endure are cakewalks in comparison to what happens within. Illness can bring a lot of alienation and shame. You can feel like you're branded “damaged goods” even if thereality is so far from the truth. There's a stigma that comes with it. But it's just one circumstance of your life, not who you are.
The problematic aspect is the "system" for cancer treatment. As we all know, cancer is big business. There are many alternative ways to treat this disease, but you must be motivated to seek it out. There are non-traditional methods that resonate with me and that have worked on many others in the past. These methods of treatment may draw on traditional research of the disease. But look at the disease more holistically, and I believe it will be less invasive in the short term and have a longer-lasting effect.
So then there's the financial component and insurance dilemmas. Especially in the U.S., where nothing is covered. A consultation with a holistic health practitioner can run you anywhere from
$1,000 to $4,500 out of pocket. And that is only the beginning. There are the doctors visits but also supplements and things one needs to purchase that are quite expensive. Again, I am under the care of a traditional doctor who is monitoring my condition, but the methods for treatment are also coming from the non-traditional sector.
How is the campaign doing and how much do you hope to raise?
MR: We did a silent art auction so we wouldn't have to have an event. We’ve raised about $18,000 and were hoping to raise about $50,000.
What can IranWire readers do to help?
MR: People can go to the Paddle 8 site and check it out. There are wonderful artists who have donated amazing works.
Laleh Khorramian was born in Tehran in 1974, and raised in Orlando, Florida in the United States. After earning her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an Master’s in Fine Arts from Columbia University, she began working in digital animation and collages, monotypes and painting.
Khorramian’s work has been shown around the world, including in the exhibitions Water Panics in the Sea, Nicole Klagsbrun Project Space, New York; Statements, Art Basel, Switzerland, Making Room: The Space Between Two- and Three- Dimensions, MASS MoCA, North Adams (2012); Water Panics in the Sea, The Thirdline and The Pavillion, Dubai (2011); Paradise Lost, Istanbul Museum of Art, Istanbul (2011); The Dissolve, Site Santa Fe Bienniale (2010); Scene 9, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, AU (2009); The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Gallery of Modern Art, Australia (2009); and Unveiled, The Saatchi Gallery, London (2009). She has been a resident at Krinzinger Projekte Residency, Vienna (2008-09) and La Curtiduria Residency, Oaxaca City, Mexico (2008). Awards and honors include grants from the Gottlieb Foundation, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, The Pat Hearn and Colin Deland Foundation, The Artist Fellowship Award, and the Agnes Martin Award.