Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Newsletter

Soraya Sarah Nazarian – An Artist's Journey

Co-sponsored Event

Photo for Soraya Sarah Nazarian – An

Renowned Iranian Jewish artist Soraya Sarah Nazarian, in an intimate conversation with her daughters Shula and Sharon, will recount her extraordinary journey as an immigrant, an artist and a humanitarian. Moderated by Marla C. Berns, Director of the UCLA Fowler Museum.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM (Pacific Time)
Image for Calendar ButtonImage for Calendar Button


Click the link above to register and join the online event.

This event will be hosted on Zoom and is free and open to the public. Zoom details provided after online registration is confirmed.

Sponsored by the Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel and co-sponsored by the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and the Fowler Museum at UCLA.


About the Speakers

Soraya Sarah Nazarian is an Iranian-born artist. She is a master in direct stone carving. Her work explores themes of motherhood, family, spirituality and Iranian culture. Soraya immigrated to the U.S. in 1979 with her family. Early in her career, she worked in multiple mediums including drawing and clay. In the 1980s, Soraya began sculpting at American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism), and established her own studio soon after.  Her work is distinguished by two major periods: the 1980s-1990s were a time of discovery and experimentation while the 2000s are marked by the creation of large-scale sculptures.

Early experimentations show Soraya’s depth in mastering the female form and in creating abstract compositions out of stone.  These early works often reflected her life experiences – a theme that reemerges throughout her career. Most of her works are based on strong familial connections and a commitment to humanistic values.
In 2000, Soraya traveled to Pietrasanta, Italy, a city made famous for its marble quarries by the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo.  The experience profoundly shaped her life, focused her technique, and enhanced her relationship with stone.  Since her initial arrival, she has been one of the few women who have personally selected stone from Pietrasanta quarries.

Soraya’s work has been highlighted in various solo and group exhibitions. Strength Revealed (2010), was a 25 year retrospective of her work curated by Barbara Gilbert, curator emeritus of the Skirball Cultural Center and Museum in Los Angeles. Accompanying the show was a catalogue titled Strength Revealed: The Sculpture of Soraya Sarah Nazarian including essays by Ruth Weisberg, Cynthia Burlingham, and an interview with Gloria Gerace. Recent group exhibitions include My Heart Is in the East (2012) an official satellite show of the Fowler Museum's Light and Shadows at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery Venice, CA; Sacred Words, Sacred Texts (2013) at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles; and 7,657mi exhibition in conjunction with the Jerusalem Biennale (2015) at American Jewish University’s Platt Gallery, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem. Her work is held in numerous private collections.

Cultural, educational, and medical institutions in Israel and the U.S have commissioned several large-scale public art sculptures.  Recent commissions include Sound (2002) at the Jerusalem Academy of Music & Dance in Jerusalem, Israel; Reflections (2007) at Sapir College, near Sderot, Israel; Legacy (2009) at the University of Haifa in Haifa, Israel; Identity (2010) at Saperstein Middle School in Los Angeles; Wings (2014) at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Love Heals (2017) at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel; Unbound (2018) at California State University, Northridge University;  and Dancer (2020) at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Performing Arts, Northridge, CA.

Soraya established the Soraya Sarah Nazarian Artists Initiative at the American Jewish University to provide emerging artists with studio and exhibition space in Los Angeles. She lives and maintains a studio in Los Angeles.


For over twenty years, Shulamit Nazarian has been an advocate for artists, art education, and the creative community in the United States and abroad. She immigrated to the United States with her parents and siblings from Iran. Shulamit studied architecture and worked as an architectural graphic designer before she began a successful career as a gallerist, opening the Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in 2012. The Gallery features a diverse program of emerging and mid-career artists and has achieved International recognition for its groundbreaking approach.

As Senior Vice President of International Affairs, Sharon Nazarian heads the Anti-Defamation League's work fighting antisemitism and racial hatred globally, including in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, and ADL’s Israel office. She is also President of the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation and founder of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA and Chairs its Advisory Board. She taught as an adjunct professor at UCLA in the Department of Political Science, is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and sits on a myriad of foreign policy boards.

Marla C. Berns (Moderator) is the Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. During her tenure, Berns has overseen more than 170 exhibitions, 44 publications and thousands of public programs at the Fowler. She has served as the Director of the Fowler since 2001. In 2013, she received the Medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic. She was honored for her contributions to knowledge of the arts and artists of Africa and her promotion of cultural exchange between France and the United States through the Fowler's partnerships with Paris's Quai Branly Museum.


Sponsor(s): Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, Dortort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel, Fowler Museum at UCLA.