Omid Mokri is an Iranian American artist classically trained in Iran in miniatures. His practice, beginning with classical Persian- and European-style paintings reflecting philosophical themes in the tradition of the vanitas, became a vehicle for survival while in prison in the United States. While incarcerated, Mokri used his work to tell the stories of inmates fighting to persevere against a system denying them their humanity, sketching inmate portraits on commonplace, symbolic items such as non-sufficient fund envelopes. Mokri was released at the precipice of a devastating COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin, during which thousands of inmates were left to die in overcrowded housing units. He now wants to use his work as a platform for social commentary and advocacy, sharing stories about the prison-industrial-complex’s continued robbery of inmates’ humanity, dignity, and lives.
Mokri and his family fled Iran during the revolution. He has since earned degrees from both the Rhode Island School of Design and California College of the Arts. As an Iranian American, Mokri represents both cultures in his work. His work ranges from 18th century classical Persian-inspired paintings to contemporary drawing and painting to intricate book sculptures inlaid with items found in nature. As a classically trained artist, Mokri forges his own path using artwork to portray his unique perspective as a formerly incarcerated immigrant refugee.