Art has always been a part of my life. It is woven so completely into my memories that I cannot remember a time without this expression of color and imagination. There were many other colorful elements woven into my childhood…my wonderful, brilliant mother who accomplished so much and brought home broken components of mail sorters from her work at the postal training center. My first memory is using those broken pieces to create art. And my steadfast, creative Pakistani father, who influenced me greatly with his architectural career and passion for helping others. And my American grandmother who visited regularly and eventually moved in with us. When she visited, we painted and then turned the garage into an art museum to display our work. And my Pakistani grandmother who lived with us, spoke only her native language, cooked amazing meals, and always had a snack for me after school. They all are dear to me and have a heavy influence on my work today.
My flower art formally began in 2017 with “Blossom Bowl”, a piece for the Oklahoma Museum of Art Omelet Party. But the story goes back much further. I started making individual paper flowers during a time of personal darkness. It became a coping mechanism as I took what seemed to be useless pieces of paper and made them into an object with shape, beauty, and meaning. I didn’t know what I would do with the flowers, if anything, but in that painful time, I continued to make them, in many shapes, over and over.
In 2017, my Leadership Oklahoma classmate, Cindy Mitas-Friedemann, asked me to create a piece of art for the Omelet Party. It was my first assembled piece, and it took three months to complete. Each flower in that piece has a uniquely individual shape. Emotionally, I put everything I had into that piece of art, and I did not work again for six months. But through the uncertainty, the self-doubt, and the anxiety of this experience, I gained the knowledge and inspiration that has become the trademark of my art ever since.
The biggest inspiration of my art and my life is Blossom, my dear wife. She is my dreaming partner, my encourager, my rock, and my soulmate. Every piece of art I create has “Blossom” as part of its name.
My other inspiration is stories of people, and each piece has a story.
I realized the importance of the stories with my first commissioned art, “True Love Blossom”, when I met with my friend Chuck and talked with him about the story of how he and his wife met and their wonderful life together. When I listen to someone telling their story, I hear things I would never have known. People connect to the pieces and their stories become art.
After the Omelet Party piece, I thought my art would always be white blossoms. But in 2018, with Blossom’s encouragement, I began experimenting with color in the flowers. “Birthday Blossom” was my first piece with color.
Although many people will remember 2020 as a lost year, for me it was big. I continued to find new ways to tell people’s stories in my art—through types of paper, shape, cardboard, meaningful ephemera incorporated into the center, and background color. I am inspired by people and the way they live—sometimes it’s a statement, a book or music they enjoy, or a person or place they love. Something from their story captures me and is the influencing idea behind each piece.
I created “Hero Blossom” from magazines we were planning to throw away, toilet paper cores and a letter from a friend about what he was experiencing as an emergency room doctor during the pandemic. “Friendship Train Blossom” was inspired by my friend’s love of music. The name for “Ooey Gooey Blossom” was taken from my young nieces’ experience touching a goldfish and the color from the sparkle in her blue eyes. Every piece reminds me of someone’s story.
These stories are about friendships, both new and old, and they are about joyfulness. There is so much darkness and negativity in the world right now, I want to help bring light. I believe these stories are a positive touchpoint. This is how I want to see the world, and this is how I want people to see my art.