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Artist Vian Sora

Louisville artist Vian Sora finds inspiration for her paintings in her life and her surroundings. Growing up in Iraq steered her work toward certain symbols and themes.

“I grew up with a Kurdish dad and Arabic mother in Baghdad,” says Sora. “I was born in 1976. When I was three, Saddam Hussein took power and that was an immediate transition to a whole different state of terror in Iraq.”

Sora says that as a woman in Iraq in the 1990s and early 2000s, she couldn’t approach every subject in her work that she wanted to. By the mid-2000s, she felt a loss of inspiration while living in Baghdad. However, that low point led to a turning point in her artistic career.

“I lost every hope and meaning, and why I’m doing this, so that’s when I shifted to abstract work,” says Sora. “But now I’ve found a completely different direction with the work, and I’m very happy about it.”

Sora’s new and purely abstract style was on display in “Unbounded Domains,” a show at the Moreman Gallery in Louisville.

“I think she creates chaos in her work and then she puts order to that,” says Susan Moreman. “One of the ways she does that is she paints the background last, and that background is what reveals what you see in it.”

“It’s having a complete random start to the painting, then controlling that,” Sora explains. “It’s the control and the randomness, and I’ve found that duality in the work is very successful, because it’s really satisfying me in a visual way, and during the process itself.”

For Sora, settling in Louisville and becoming part of the community has been key to her current stage of evolution as an artist.

“I had a lot of opportunities to move elsewhere, and then I realized that every time I go visit a new place in the U.S. or around the world, I always wanted to go back,” says Sora. “I want to represent [Kentucky]. I want to kind of defy stereotypes about here, and I talk about this a lot, because there are stereotypes just like there are stereotypes about where I come from.”

Sora’s work is on display through December 1, 2019, at the KMAC Museum in Louisville as part of its triennial exhibition.

“It’s very exciting to be part of the KMAC Triennial because it’s my first triennial in Kentucky, and it’s very important for me to be a part of that,” says Sora. “There is a certain kind of meaning about being from my background and being part of this show.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2503, which originally aired on October 19, 2019. Watch the full episode.