Aisha Changezi, 47, is not the traditional student. Mother of three children, her two sons are studying the sciences at UM-Flint while she finishes her Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Painting and a minor in Graphic Design. Changezi is also training with a master calligrapher, Dr. Nihad Dukhan, to eventually earn her license in traditional Arabic calligraphy. “But, I am also interested in English calligraphy, because Arabic is not my first language.”
Born in Pakistan, Changezi moved here with her family when she was 16. She says it was hard for her to feel like she fit in at first. “As I grew up, I started to look at it as a positive thing, because I can relate to so many different people,” she shares. “I think my art represents both cultures, and I kind of see myself as a bridge.” Her art merges her dual-cultured background, combining traditional elements and calligraphy and representing them in a modern way.
Changezi says her love for art was influenced by her father, who she remembers making sketches to entertain the family. “He never went to art school, but he had a very strong aesthetic sense,” she says.
“He lost his own father at a young age, and in all reality, art can be a tough profession. He had a lot of family responsibility and pressure, so he went into the sciences. But, he always instilled this passion in me.” She says her father was also the first person to instruct her on calligraphy. “When I was in middle school in Pakistan, we were taken to a calligraphy competition,” she recalls. “I didn’t really know calligraphy, but I was a good artist, so they sent me to represent the school.” Concerned about it, she asked her father for help, “My dad taught me a couple key points, just aesthetics, and ‘if you get this word, try to fit it into this layout.’” Changezi placed first in the competition, which was an encouraging place to begin.
But, art would not be her focus of study for quite some time to come. Changezi maintained art as a hobby while raising her three children. “I tried other professions; but, being a creative person, it just wasn’t satisfying,” she says. “So, once my kids were a little older, I was thinking of going back to school. My husband was always really supportive, saying, ‘do what you love.’ So, here I am.”
Curiosity in the artistic process has driven Changezi forward, “It is part of the reason why I do what I do, and that has helped me to experiment with a lot of different mediums.” She adds, “traditionally, a lot of calligraphers strictly do calligraphy and not illumination work. I’m all over the place.” She works with oil, acrylic, pastel, pencil, watercolor … “and that’s the beauty,” she says. “When you know how each medium works and you’re comfortable with it, then you know each one’s strength and weakness and know which one to choose for a project.” Experimenting with mediums and combinations of them can be frustrating, Changezi says, “but, I think every time you are frustrated, you’re growing as an artist.”
Sometimes Changezi’s interest in all things involving art and design makes her feel like she should choose a focus. “But, the deeper I’m getting into it, it’s coming full circle,” she explains. “Sometimes, I don’t see it but my teachers see it. Sometimes I think, ‘oh, I’m all over the place’ but they say ‘just go with it, you’ll find your voice’ and I think I am getting there.”
As a nontraditional student, she says, “when you are younger and just figuring yourself out, a lot of energy goes into that, so it’s hard to concentrate as an artist. Because I am in a different stage of my life, I’m very comfortable in my own skin and I can just jump into my artwork. And I feel, if you are true to yourself, it shows in your work and makes it unique.” Changezi adds, “I think that if people are interested in your art, they want to see a little bit of you in there, exposed to the rest of the world, and I think that’s intriguing. And that only comes when you are really, truly comfortable with yourself.”
Her upcoming student show is called, “Universe Series,” – mini watercolors of images in the universe, culminating with one very large piece. The large painting is of a microburst, “a small moment in time, on a really big scale,” Changezi explains. “The idea behind it is that, as humans, our perspective is so limited. So, even if we see something that is really vast and complex, we think we know it. Even as scientists, we think we know it – but do we really know it?” Her goal is to make it not only a visual experience, but also psychological, spiritual and educational. “Each piece has calligraphy to go with it, so you can read it, look at the piece and reflect.”
Changezi is an artist member at Buckham Gallery and has also recently been more involved in community art shows through UM-Flint. She has a freelance business, doing commissioned paintings, murals and book illustrations, which she will continue after her upcoming graduation. For more information, find her on Facebook, Instagram (@aishachangezi) and Tumbler.
“I think my art represents both cultures,
and I kind of see myself as a bridge.”
Photography by Eric Dutro
Photos provided by Aisha Changezi