The New York Observer, Mario Naves, November, 2008
"Maryam Amiryani's still-life paintings are gems of pictorial economy. Small in scale and ineffably concentrated, they contain anonymous surfaces upon which are placed one or two crisply delineated objects — a toy zebra, a paper hat or poppies. The colors are few, rich and clean; the mood intimate bordering on otherworldly. A spare strain of symbolism infiltrates Ms. Amiryani's art, but it's her tenderly distressed surfaces that entrance."
The New York Observer, Mario Naves, December, 2005
"You don't have to be an expert in botany to take pleasure in the paintings of Maryam Amiryani, on display at the George Billis Gallery. Though a checklist specifies the subject of each of the small canvases, accuracy isn't the issue. Nature is an impetus, not an arbiter here. Sinuous, decorative form and strong, sparkling color drive the work. Surface, too: Ms. Amiryani abrades the pictures between successive layers of oil paint, creating textures that recall (for the artist) Iranian textiles and (for the critic) Roman wall paintings.Would that the crisp interplay between positive and negative areas were less cut and dried. As it is, Ms. Amiryani settles for predictably effective compositions: Each image is whipped into shape by the surrounding blackish ground. That's not to say she isn't capable of complication — or magic. Hydrangeas (2005) is everything Ms. Amiryani wants it to be: Luminous and spooky, somewhat acidic, focused, sexy and lush. It's a painting to fall in love with."
The New York Sun, Maureen Mullarkey, November, 2005
"The Iranian-born Ms. Amiryani departs here from her characteristic velvety paint surface, scraping canvases to simulate the wear of old textiles. The result, plus her instinct for pattern, is unabashedly, even proudly, decorative."
The New York Observer, Mario Naves, March, 2004
"How the painter Maryam Amiryani, an Iranian-born émigré from Paris who graduated from both Georgetown University and the New York Academy of Art, came to settle in Marfa, Tex., has to be an interesting story. It's made more interesting-at least to my mind-by the fact that Marfa is the home of the Chinati Foundation, the artistic utopian outpost established by the Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd (1928-1994).
Though Ms. Amiryani's small, still-life pictures are spare in composition, her connection to the Judd aesthetic is purely geographical. She's a traditionalist, unabashedly embracing the values of art (to name just two: illusion and composition) that Judd based his career on refuting.
You can't help but wonder what Ms. Amiryani makes of her situation. She no doubt appreciates the irony, as lonely and huge as the Texas desert. But to judge by her paintings at George Billis Gallery, the Southwest suits her to a T.
Ms. Amiryani paints what's around her: yucca pods, wild flowers and indigenous fruits (with the oddball item-false eyelashes, a toy rooster-thrown in for variety). Claiming Georgia O'Keeffe as her inspiration, Ms. Amiryani has a leg up on precedent: She knows how to paint. Her feel for the viscosity, weight and metaphorical capacity of oils is sure.
When she aims for straight representation-which she does most of the time-the staid Ms. Amiryani settles for comely-bordering-on-forgettable. She asks for more in Wildflowers , Three Roses and Yucca Plant (all from 2004), not only in terms of surface (which shows signs of wear and tear), but in terms of temper. Introspective and somewhat gloomy, they suggest that the painter is looking for the animating truth behind the world of appearances. Yucca Plant , in particular, goes the distance, embodying a spiritual need without giving up its decorative lilt. If Ms. Amiryani continues to build on that kind of mystery and painterly risk, Donald Judd could well turn out to be the second artist we think of when we hear the name Marfa."