Visual Art Becomes ‘Obsession’ for Alumnus Who Was a Math Major

Oswego seemed exotic to Mahmoud Hamadani ’81, who arrived from Iran in the late 1970s to study mathematics—exotic and foreboding. Dropped in front of Culkin Hall in a blizzard, he followed shadow-like figures through the snow to Cayuga Hall.

Mahmoud Hamadani ’81“I could not see more than a few feet ahead,” he recalls. “It took 15 minutes for a five-minute walk. But, since I had no idea how far I was going, it still feels like the longest walk of my life.”

At Oswego, Hamadani says, he matured and became acclimated to America. “The college provided a supportive environment, not just academically, but also culturally.”

As Hamadani was learning from Americans, his colleagues were learning from him. Lisa Court ’83 says she wondered how he and other Iranian students would react to being in a potentially hostile environment during the 1980 Iran hostage crisis. “Mahmoud was not intimidated,” she recalls. “He wore a button that said, ‘Question Authority.’ He challenged us to think and not to simply accept what the media, the classroom and our government told us.”

“Ode to New York,” is an eight-foot high wooden sculpture created in 2008 by New York artist Mahmoud Hamadani ’81, who began to show his art in the late 1990s.

“Ode to New York,” is an eight-foot high wooden sculpture created in 2008 by New York artist Mahmoud Hamadani ’81, who began to show his art in the late 1990s.

Hamadani earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1992 and had a brief career as a political adviser with the United Nations in Afghanistan before discovering his passion for art. His work is in the permanent collection of the British Museum and was exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art and New York University and in private galleries. He is a recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant.

“I discovered art by accident,” Hamadani says. “I started drawing to give shape to the raw images dancing in my mind. Soon, curiosity turned into interest, and interest into obsession. We never fully break from our past. My work reflects the sum of the influences in my life.”

Hamadani says his abstract drawings, paintings and sculptures reflect his search for an original, fresh image that lies outside preconceived forms. He is, in that sense, still embarked on that longest of walks he began on his first day on campus with no idea how far he was going.

— Linda Loomis ’90 M’97

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