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Kamran Samimi: Sanctuaries

April 1, 2021 - October 2, 2021
Sanctuaries is a beautifully layered response to an extraordinary time and place. The work is the outcome of an artistic residency that was extended by several months because of the impacts of the pandemic.

Kamran Samimi

Kamran Samimi grew up in rural Laupāhoehoe on Hawai‘i Island, with an Iranian/Scandinavian background. Since 2008, his work has been shown extensively around Hawai‘i, the continental US, Australia, and Japan. He holds a BFA in printmaking and an MFA in sculpture and print media from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Sanctuaries is a beautifully layered response to an extraordinary time and place. The work is the outcome of an artistic residency that was extended by several months because of the impacts of the pandemic. This unique, expanded time frame realized a thoughtful artist-curator process that captured engagements and entanglements with Shangri La that only time could inspire.

Samimi observed and studied the materiality of the museum and surrounding landscape--from the collections and buildings to the stones on the hillside and the ocean waves crashing below--as conduits to a spiritual space that resides deep within each. The resulting artwork animates a specific facet of Shangri La: earth beneath the museum, architectural structures, and the many peoples involved in its creation. The pieces employ mark-making techniques to convey the aliveness of the natural world and the artist’s own cultural awakening and ancestral connections with Shangri La. Sanctuaries is a celebration of the journey of self-discovery and reflects on the spiritual and natural connections that are made along the way. 

Kamran Samimi is Shangri La’s first Hawaiʻi-based Artist-in-Residence. Learn more about Samimi's museum residency.


CorTen™ Steel, Earpod wood, Plexiglas®, Concrete, Monkeypod wood, Basalt,  Aluminium, Marble, Granite

This sculptural installation is the artist's tribute to the generations of thinkers, artisans and laborers residing in his family tree, embodying creative, cultural and vocational connections over time and space. Materially, the piece depicts the diverse range of elements that Samimi’s ancestors have used in their work: wood, stone, metal and plastic. Several of the materials were sourced from the grounds at Shangri La and draw a connection to the people who built the museum. In the Persian tradition, the hayat (courtyard) in a home is the meeting point to receive guests and socialize with family and friends. It is a sacred gathering place. Samimi’s residency at Shangri La provided an unique opportunity to visualize his rich and complex relationship to the collections and cultural resources at Shangri La, bringing together all the peoples and cultures represented at the museum and manifested in him.

Of Stone and Sea


Cement, Acrylic, India Ink, Powdered Stone, Pigments, Coffee, Iron Filings on Raw Canvas

The idea of “building a home”--a place for the artistʻs spirit to reside--is the foundation of these artworks. Samimi created a textured topography made of stone and water to create channels for the flow of ink and pigment, capturing its motion and emotion across the canvas as the liquid followed the path of least resistance. This material-driven approach was inspired by the many layers of worn stone and bedrock throughout the property of Shangri La, and listening to the sound of waves crashing against them at the shoreline while seeing rain channeling over their surfaces. Of Stone and Sea combines elements in ways that showcase how the Earth is the ultimate source material for creating a home.

Dark Matter 


Oil Stick on Canvas

These paintings explore the land that underpins Shangri La, imagining the stories embedded in stones and other formations that compose the grounds. Overlooking the museum (and inaccessible to the general public) is a faded petroglyph - a unique reminder of the preexistence of Hawaiian life. For Samimi, the life essence of the natural world may be discovered through the careful contemplation of these markings and signs, and the rocky earth on which they are written. Each painting is a meditation on the life cycle of stone: Solid, Liquid, and Transcendent. Samimi intuits the spirit of the earthen material to guide the flow of oil sticks to recreate nature’s life rhythms. The work conveys the unseen energy that resides beneath seemingly hard and unchanging surfaces in the natural world to present what Samimi believes are its unifying threads.

In this special audio program, we explore the artistic and curatorial voices behind recent exhibitions and programs at Shangri La. In this three-part series, we delve into the work of Shangri La’s first Hawaii-based artist in residence, Kamran Samimi. Kamran participated in a residency at Shangri La from January 1, 2020, to February 28, 2021, during which he created two exhibitions of original work. 

In part one of this series exploring Kamran’s work, we hear from Dr. Leslee Michelsen, Shangri La’s curator of collections and exhibitions. Leslee worked closely with Kamran throughout his residency and will talk about the significance of having Kamran as Shangri La’s first Hawaii-based artist in residence and what it means to curate both historic collections and contemporary artists.

In part two, our Learning Programs Coordinator, Navid Najafi takes a deep dive into Kamran’s process, the significance behind his choice of materials, and the concept of creating a home for one’s sense of self inside of art.

In part three, we feature one of Kamran’s biggest artistic influences - his father, Jamil Samimi. Together, Kamran and his father explore notions about the truth of the universe, spirituality and philosophy, art and science, nature and Star Wars! 

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