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Artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo closes Greenway season on a positive note

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo closes Greenway season on a positive note
Mehdi Ghdyanloo’s “Spaces of Hope” takes shape in Dewey Square. (Photo: Photo: Celina Colby)

The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy commissioned up and coming Iranian artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo to paint the fifth Dewey Square Park mural. Known for his surrealist public art, particularly in his native Tehran, “Spaces of Hope” represents Ghadyanloo’s American debut. For the artist, the opportunity to paint here isn’t just a line on his resume, but a chance to bring light into a time of deep uncertainty. He says, “I’m trying to spark positivity and imagination. I want it to be poetic.”

The mural is a look into an archway. At the bottom of the black background, throngs of people stand there, chatting and interacting in groups. Light pours in from a doorway on the left and a bright red balloon descends, or rises, from a cutout in the ceiling. Ghadyanloo says this is his visual representation of hope. When he visited Boston after being invited to create the work, all the people moving through the space inspired him. The throngs pouring out of South Station en route to work or play vibrated with life and energy. He translated that energy into the painting.

Ghadyanloo studied painting and cinema at the University of Tehran, but his interest in architecture also is evident. The base of the mural is that archway, inspired by the lines of the Greenway wall. The architecture was one of the first things the artist noticed about Dewey Square. Skyscrapers surround the park on all sides, and he knew he’d have to create something bold and enigmatic to be noticed among such large buildings. Ghadyanloo also noticed that the Dewey Square area is a unique space in the city. “I think this area is very different than the rest of Boston,” he says. Next to South Station, the financial district and the Seaport, the square is a transitional place. It brings people in and out of the city, to work and the ocean, but never to stay.

As an international artist, Ghadyanloo has taken the temperature of many places in order to install artwork there. Each of his public pieces is unique to its home. “People in Iran, people in Boston, people everywhere are very similar,” he says. “I like to use unifying concepts like hope and light. I like to appeal to the inner child in all of us.” In conjunction with the mural, Ghadyanloo will exhibit an original painting at Boston City Hall and publish a limited edition screen print only available in Boston.

The presence of artists like Ghadyanloo in Boston, especially during this political climate, reminds us of our shared humanity. The artist also wants “Spaces of Hope” to remind us of our shared experiences. He says, “When you turn on the TV or look at social media, there’s negativity everywhere. I think public art can counteract that.”