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Bayou Artist | Hooshang Khorasani

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Artist
Jun 30th, 2023

article by Starla Gatson
photography by Kelly Moore Clark

It’s no secret that energy is a common theme of Hooshang Khorasani’s art. He declares it in the first line of his artist statement — “Energy in nature and the world around me, in moving colors that show power, in the inner life of my subjects,” he explains in the written explanation of his work — and mentions it several times in his conversation with us at BayouLife

Hooshang doesn’t have to announce energy’s presence, though. It’s something viewers of his art can see plainly.

“One of my clients wrote something that said, ‘Every time I look at my painting, I want to get out and start running,’” he reveals. 

He laughs as he shares the memory, but Khorasani is serious about creating the energy his client felt. It’s a positive force, he explains. He acknowledges that art can evoke heavy, negative emotions, but he’s only interested in creating the opposite, the kind of positivity that energizes you enough to start running after just one look at the work. 

“Whatever genre it is, whoever’s looking at [my art] should feel good,” he explains. “Positive energy is probably the main theme of my work.”

Khorasani’s paintings cover a variety of subject matter, including abstract images, equines, florals, and landscapes. On the surface, these things seem to have nothing in common. But Khorasani’s positive energy is the thread that ties them together. 

Don’t mistake Khorasani’s optimism and upbeat attitude for naivete. The artist has experienced his fair share of hardship, inferring that less-than-ideal circumstances led to his initial departure from his home country and later, his career shift from graphic design to full-time self-employment. But he doesn’t dwell too much on those; instead, as he walks us through his story — a lengthy one, he explains, noting, “You have a long, long story when you paint all your life. In different times, different seasons, different ages, everything changes for you.” — he focuses on the high points. 

When Khorasani says he’s painted all his life, he means it. His father was an artist and encouraged his son’s interest in the pursuit. The younger Khorasani showed promise early on, even having one of his drawings published in a newspaper at just seven years old. 

Khorasani’s interest in art only deepened in his teenage years, as the high school he attended was centered around the arts. 

His high school, a place his wife quips was similar to the one in the 1980 film Fame, was the only one in his country to have art classes, he explains. 

“We were in class all day long painting,” Khorasani remembers. “We had models, and our teachers taught university art sections. So, after we would finish high school, we’d go to college and have the same teachers working with us.” 

Upon earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1971, Khorasani accepted a position as a graphic designer at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. During his 12-year tenure as a graphic designer, Khorasani racked up quite a few book illustration credits. Soon, though, the opportunity for a career shift presented itself. Khorasani walked away from the Institute and headed to the south of Spain, where his journey as a self-employed artist would begin.

“An interior designer contacted me, and she wanted me to work with them,” he says. “They were building very expensive luxury houses close to the beach, and she wanted me to paint some [pieces] to put all over them. Then, another sale came up, and they wanted me to do that again and again and again. I did that for years. It was interesting; I was working 24/7 and enjoying it.” 

That was more than 30 years ago, the beginning of his self-employed endeavors, and Khorasani still loves the feeling of constantly working on his art. 

        “Even now, when I’m sitting somewhere on a computer working on different projects, I just miss going back to my studio and working,” he shares. “I don’t know what it is, but I just want to work every day.” 

        So, he does. But how he ended up working in Ruston, Louisiana, as opposed to the south of Spain? Well, that’s an entirely different story, one that his wife, Sallie Rose Hollis, chimes in to tell. 

    “When I was in the south of Spain, my graphic design boss moved to California,” Khorasani says. “I thought I could go work with him there.”

So, he packed his belongings and made his way to California. But first, he had to make a detour to the United States south — Ruston, to be more specific — to visit his brother, who had moved to the area to attend Louisiana Tech University. Some of his brother’s friends were having a party, he remembers, and he decided to attend. 

Meanwhile, while driving through Lincoln parish, Hollis noticed her friend’s house looked crowded. So, she decided to stop. 

“I say God made me do it,” she says. “We met, and he asked me out. We went out the next night. He was supposed to leave for California in two or three days, but he didn’t leave for two months.” 

Khorasani did finally make his way to California that spring — his position had been filled before his arrival; that came as a surprise to him, but not to Hollis — and by September, after a few months of Hollis visiting her new beau in the Golden State, the two were married. They had a commuter marriage until the following spring when Khorasani would eventually return to settle in Lincoln parish with his bride. 

“I’m a Ruston resident now,” he declares proudly before Hollis adds, “He’s definitely a happy transplant.” 

Since moving to north Louisiana decades ago, Khorasani’s professional career has only grown. His work has been shown in galleries all over the United States, spotlighted in numerous publications, and has been added to multiple permanent museum collections. Now, he splits his time between Ruston and Laguna Woods, California, creating pieces that generate positivity. 

Whether working in Louisiana, California, or in some place he’s visiting, Khorasani’s game plan for creating a new piece is simple: there is no plan. 

He doesn’t have an idea of what he’ll create before he begins, but he figures it out as he goes. 

“I paint in layers, adding textures, but it’s as if the paint itself takes part in the creative process,” he writes in his artist biography. “I’m the tour guide on the journey, but there’s another participant. My hands are virtually channeled into a universal source of energy. And that energy, in turn, pulses through my brushes and artist tools.” 

This, it’s fair to wager, is the energy that comes through when art lovers look at his painted national park landscapes, running horses, abstracts, or florals. It even shows up in his portraits, he explains. He mentions a Native American portrait series he painted, noting how he was drawn to it for reasons he couldn’t exactly explain. 

“I started studying Native Americans when I was in Europe, and I spent a long time researching their lives, history, and culture,” he says. “When I got here, we went to the southwest and started communicating with some Native Americans there. I started painting a bunch of those faces.” 

While some of those paintings, all of which depicted true historical figures, were sold, Khorasani opted to keep most of them for his personal collection. They’re not for sale — he’s too attached to them — but they are occasionally exhibited. Some are even on display at the Union Museum of History and Art in Farmerville.

At this point, aspiring artists may wonder how they can have such a lengthy, fulfilling career or emulate Khorasani’s positive energy in their own work. And for those young creatives, Khorasani has this advice to give: don’t do what he does. 

“I used to teach sometimes in the different places I’ve been before, and one of the important things you have to tell young people is never, ever copy your teacher,” he explains before going on, “[They] have to find their own spirit, their own talent, how they want to do it for themselves. The only thing I’m following is myself. This is what everybody has to do.”