When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas in August of 2017, Avisheh Mohsenin was on vacation with her husband. Prior to leaving, after receiving ample warning that the hurricane could cause flooding, the couple moved their belongings to higher shelves.
It wasn’t until two weeks after the hurricane that Mohsenin witnessed the damage caused by the flooding in person. By then, the floodwaters had receded, and it was safe for the construction crew to enter her home. Mohsenin’s studio, where she worked on her mixed media artwork, was in the basement and the most damaged area of the house. She had been warned to expect the stench of toxic fumes to engulf her. Still, something inside of Mohsenin had hopes that her artwork, cherished photographs and mementos would remain intact and damage would be fixable. Her hopes were quickly dashed.
Mohsenin is an immigrant and these boxes of old letters and photographs in her studio were the only tangible connections to her childhood old life in Iran. The pain of losing years of personal history was all encompassing for her; she grieved the loss of loves ones no longer living all over again. But then, as she went through each item individually to see what could be saved, Mohsenin noticed an unusual beauty that the emulsion and flood water had created on the photographs and slides. And at the end of the day, Mohsenin was grateful that Harvey had only brought destruction to her home and belongings; she was still one of the fortunate residents of Houston.
As she shared images of the colorful damaged slides and photographs, transformed by the flood waters, in her social media posts, others noticed the beauty and artistic quality of these images as well. Mohsenin decided, with the help of Vaughan Mason Fine Art, to create and exhibit collages out of the remnants of her studio. Titled “Resurface,” a percentage of the proceeds from the show went toward the Harvey Arts Recovery Fund, a collaboration of Houston’s local artists to support the community’s disaster recovery. A year after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston, Mohsenin’s optimism remains.
“There is beauty in ruins. You can find hope in sad and dark moments,” she told Full Frame.
Full Frame documented Avisheh Mohsenin personal and artistic journey from the moment Harvey hit up to the opening of the exhibit exactly one year later. Watch this week’s Full Frame Close Up, to learn more about the evolution of destruction to art and loss to life.