Marjan Moghaddam shows a clip from "Drag Queens, Skinheads, Artists, and Some Girls." - Arts & Entertainment Editor/Tara Lonsdorf

Marjan Moghaddam wants her art to alter reality as we know it—and so far, she’s been pretty successful. A single one of her Instagram videos can rack up tens of thousands of views in a matter of weeks, while some have been viewed millions of times across social media platforms. Her art, which ranges from digital sculptures to augmented reality, has pioneered the frontiers of computer graphics since the 1980s.

As one of three featured artists for the Rowan University Art Gallery’s current exhibit, “Enamored Armor,” Moghaddam’s work stands out for its interactivity. Working with motion capture and phone application software, her pieces depict the likenesses of women distorted (or “hacked”) by the viewer themselves to depict a variety of perspectives of femininity. On Thursday, Jan. 31, she visited the university exhibit to give a public lecture about her work.

“Some of the first pieces that I showed were done with a Commodore 64,” Moghaddam said, “so I go way back with the technology.”

Present in the audience were several Rowan University students studying video game graphics. As a tenured full professor of computer graphics and animation at Long Island University, Moghaddam was able to supplement and further the education of all who came to hear her speak. Offering a glimpse into a “time capsule of the 80s,” Moghaddam showed edited performance work done as Resident Video Artist at the Pyramid Club from 1981 to 1988, titled “Drag Queens, Skinheads, Artists, and Some Girls,” which is still available to watch on YouTube. She then pivoted to her “PMS” series from the 90s.

“I was working on a series of animations that I ended up showing at Helm’s Degenerate art show in the East Village in the 1980s,” Moghaddam said. “Some of you may not be aware that that was the beginning of the culture wars, and Senator Jesse Helms [of North Carolina] had a tremendous amount of controversy over the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] funding artist Robert Mapplethorpe because of the homosexual nature of his work. So all the artists in the East Village decided to get together and do this exhibition called ‘Helm’s Degenerate Art Show’ to protest against Senator Jesse Helms. I exhibited ‘PMS’ which was a bunch of computer animations.”

This politicism has punctured Moghaddam’s work over the past three decades—and also makes her work a perfect fit within “Enamored Armor,” which focuses on the cultural implications of female identity. Of working at the Rowan University Art Gallery, Moghaddam has found it to be a “wonderful” experience all-around.

“[Enamored Armor] is one of the most beautiful shows I’ve seen in a long time,” she said, noting both the gallery space and the curation process as reasons for the exhibit’s success.

One of the reasons why exhibit curator Amie Potsic found herself drawn to Moghaddam’s work was that Moghaddam is a woman artist in a field where most of her contemporaries are men.

“She’s a pioneer in so many ways,” Potsic said. “And yet with a body of work so dense, so difficult, so interesting and complex, it’s still so approachable, and everyone can appreciate it on some level. I really love that about Marjan’s work.”

Moghaddam and Potsic recently appeared on the Art Watch Radio podcast together, which offers more discussion into these topics, and can be streamed by accessing the link to the show.

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