LENNY: Iranian artist Orkideh Torabi grew up with art all around her. “Culturally, art has always been a part of Iranian daily life,” she says, her voice cultivated and composed over the phone. And within her family, education and creativity were always celebrated: Her father studied to be a naval officer in the United States, and on her mother’s side, she comes from a long line of artists (she’s particularly inspired by her uncle, the director Bahram Beyzai, who is now a professor at Stanford University). But it wasn’t until she moved to Chicago from Tehran about five years ago that she felt she could fully be herself.

“The view of women [in Iran] is so heavily conservative; they don’t have a voice,” she tells me. “I struggled when I stepped outside the confines of my house.” After studying graphic design and illustration in Tehran and a stint teaching studio art at a university (even her male students had trouble finding their voice, she says), her father encouraged her to come to the United States >>>

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