Pouran Esrafily was born in Azerbijan, Iran in 1959. She graduated with a diploma in Math in 1977 and left Iran to study Architecture at Kansas University in USA. She chose Kansas primarily because no one else did and she wanted to be the first in the middle of no-where.
For her first house project at school, she designed a perfect white cube. Inside the house the walls and floors were slanted and doorknobs and windows were placed in unexpected places. It was a house that looked perfect from outside but was out of balance inside.
Shortly after graduation she moved to New York City where she worked as an Architect from 1984-1994. She worked on prestigious projects like the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC, Leslie Wexner’s house in Columbus Ohio, Leonard Lauder’s apartment in New York. Although she enjoyed studying Architecture, she didn’t care for the practice. She knew that she was misplaced when she envied the messenger who dropped off blueprints on his bike. Her artful furniture and lighting designs were shown in international design shows and she participated in a group show of fetishes by Alchemia in Milan in 1990 with the likes of Satssas, Mendini, Palladino and Stark.
During those claustrophobic ten years that she lived in New York, she studied acting at Herbert Berghof Sudios with Ute Haggen and William Hickey. She took part in improvisational theatre group ABC No Rio and had lead roles in independent films, as Maryam in “the Suitors” Cannes film festival 1989 and as Paula in “the distribution of lead” in 1990.
In 1994, standing at a subway platform waiting for a train, she identified with the rats running back and forth on the railroad tracks. She realized that it was time out! She had to leave the city. She convinced her husband, a painter whom she had married in 1993, to move to a Pennsylvania Dutch Country where he had inherited an abandoned, dilapidated house from his grandparents.
Determined to make the house livable so that she could just blend into the nature and lead a simple non-existent existence, she prepared to leave New York in April 1994. A month before her departure, a French photographer who was assigned to photograph Louise Bourgeois came to stay with her. Esrafily assisted him.
A friendship between Esrafily and Bourgeois ensued which led to their collaborations until Bourgeois’ death in May 2010. Esrafily wrote, directed and performed a videoed performance at Bourgeois Studio to express her creative process of exorcism in 1996, which won a video kunstprise award. She made a short experimental 16-millimeter film on Bourgeois life and work in 1997. Her collaborations with Bourgeois have been shown at The National Arts club in New York, Corcoran Museum in DC, Wexner Center for the arts at Columbus Ohio, Saint Marks Church in New York. She has received grants from The Pennsylvania council on the arts, The Wexner center for the arts and the Agnes Gund Foundation.
Monopol in 2010 and Bolero Mode in 2011 have published interviews with Esrafily about her collaborations with Bourgeois and printed some of her photographs of Bourgeois. She received a bronze lead award for her photographs of Bourgeois by the Lead academy in Germany in 2011.
Divorced in 1999, Esrafily bought a stone farm house in Pennsylvania Dutch country and began leading a solitary life for the following ten years, 2000-2010. During those years she stepped out of her world into Bourgeois’ world on Sundays shielded by a camera to film and host Bourgeois’ Sunday Salons at her house in New York. Artists from around the world gathered at her house to show and discuss their work from 1997-2007. At the Salons when asked what Esrafily did? She told them that she was a gardener, which was the truth. They laughed! She was inspired by nature. Nature gave her courage to endure solitude to engage in a dialogue to acquire self-knowledge.
Esrafily began painting and writing poetry in 2000. September 15, 2009 she abruptly landed in the hospital with an ailment that could have been fatal. Esrafily had always had a friendly dialogue with death but now she was confronted with the reality of death causing her to step out of her solitude. In 2011 she made a film called “The Sun Will Rise” standard definition video. In 2012 she made a feature length film called “Unknown”, high definition video. In 2013 She made a feature length film called “Together Alone”, high definition video.
2010 North Hampton Community College (installation/Performance)
2006 North Hampton Community College (installation and performance)
2005 Zollner Art Center Bethlehem Pa (paintings and drawings)
2003 New Arts Program Kutztown Pa (drawings)
2000 St.Mark’s Church (video)
2000 Artist Space In New York (video)
1999 Corcoran Museum of art in Washington DC (video)
1999 Alliance Frances in New York (video)
1998 Pittsburgh Cultural trust (video)
1998 National Arts Club in New York (video)
1997 Lucy Daniels foundation in North Carolina (video)
Grants and Awards:
2011 Lead Award Germany for her images of Louise Bourgeois
2011 Wexner Center For the Arts (video editing)
1997,1998,1999, 2007, The Wexner center for the arts (video editing)
1998 The international Videokunstpreis in Germany
1997 The Pennsylvania Council on the arts (interdisciplinary)
1997 Lucy Daniels Foundation (video)
1997,98,2000 The Agnes Gund foundation (video)