What Matters to Tina Dion Mehrpouy

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Tina Dion Mehrpouy is a self-taught artist from Iran who lives and works in New York City. She is interested in the relationship between female facial forms and the politics of their bodies.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

I love being alone in my studio with the perfect playlist, a cup of matcha, and a joint. It’s during these moments when I allow myself to get lost in a painting without any expectations. To really transcend beyond myself and release whatever is waiting for recognition onto the canvas.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

I’m not sure I was willingly the most creative kid. My parents put me in piano lessons when I was 9 and I did that for five years, but I always dreaded it. I also took some art classes when I was young but I gave up because I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be or thought I should be. I’ve become much more creative as I’ve gotten older and let go of expectations I had as a child that were probably placed on me by some adult.

What is your biggest regret?

That I didn’t start taking art classes sooner. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s something special in being a self-taught artist… but now I’m taking a few classes at the Academy of Art in NYC and they’ve made me wish I had started sooner. Becoming a painter just sort of happened in 2020 after I was looking for an outlet away from my corporate job at HBO. I never intended to be a painter, but I’m so thankful for where I’m at now.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

I had my first heartbreak when I was 14, and I’ll never forget my wonderful mother consoling me. She said, “Don’t waste your tears on him. This will happen many times again and you’ll always be okay.” I held onto that so tightly. It propelled me to always trust that I would be okay, no matter how difficult the heartbreak. But of course it was not always that simple. Some other heartbreaks consisted of listening to endless sad love songs, drinking lots of wine, chain smoking cigarettes, and venting to my friends. I like to lean in!

What makes you cry?

What’s happening to my beautiful people in Iran right now. This is the most prevalent right now as it’s affecting me and my family heavily.

Other than that, I cry over other people’s pain and sorrow, looking at the moon while I’m by myself (I sound like such a cliché, but it’s true). Oh, and any ounce of sadness in a movie will get me. I just cried so hard at the Malcolm X movie. However, I hardly cry when it’s about me. Maybe I should talk about that in therapy…

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

I feel the most pride and joy while I’m creating something. For instance, my newest painting is one that I’m very proud of because of how much I have grown as a painter. Last month, I was in my first group gallery show and I had to finish a new painting quickly. There were moments during my creation process where I was overcome with a lot of pride. Then, once the piece was finished and in the gallery, the pride was replaced with a feeling of frustration. All I could think about is how I would do things differently. Ahh, I’m hardly ever satisfied.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I don’t, really. I believe in energy. I think all living organisms are composed of energy. So I can get behind the theory of reincarnation or the idea that our “souls” (being that the soul is a form of energy) leave our physical bodies and transport to another dimension. So if that’s an “afterlife,” then okay, I believe in that. But I don’t believe in heaven and hell. Sorry!

What do you hate most about yourself?

I hate how hard I am on myself. I judge myself for so many things: Why did I buy this? Why didn’t I say that? Why did I say that? Why don’t I post on IG more? Why don’t I just delete IG? Why does my brain do that? Why can’t I stop this? It causes a lot of unnecessary anxiety that makes me feel worse. I’m always questioning and overthinking everything! But I’m learning to let go more and more everyday.

What do you love most about yourself?

I’ve always loved how open-minded I am towards all kinds of different people. I love hearing different perspectives and opinions and I love getting into deep conversations about life, love, spirituality, world affairs, music, etc. I’m grateful for that.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

A Persian dish called Loobia Polo. It’s a rice dish with green beans, tomato paste, and lamb (although I usually eat it without lamb). It’s perfect with a side of salad shirazi (diced cucumber, tomato, and red onion salad). Oh, and of course with the TAHDIG (crispy rice). It’s perfection.