Nikkisa Abdollahi


Community Organizer.


She began her career as a graffiti artist at the tender age of four, perhaps earlier than some and surely later than others. Using her mother's favorite lipstick, she took to her neighbor's bedroom wall to showcase her first work of art. Like many many other misunderstood graffiti artists before her, the young girl’s art was savagely washed off without regard to its intended statement.

Not a year passed before she chose her grandmother's blanket as her favored tableau. This too, was met not with joy, but with horror and disgust. (Years later, as a daughter-in-law, she can appreciate her mother's embarrassment at this deed.) Needless to say, her benefactor chose not to celebrate “the work"; no Polaroids were snapped to commemorate these first attempts at self-expression. These two episodes were vague memories and rely mostly on her mother's perturbed recollections, but one event single-handedly rescued the girl’s artistic ambitions and gave her the courage to believe in her talent. It also happened to be her third and last act of using the public domain as her canvas.

A lonely first grader uprooted from pre-revolutionary Iran to Oklahoma, she had no friends to confide in yet, so she chose a small, laminated wood-grain desk for self-expression. To all bystanders, it was but a blip in a day, but in her world a small inner revolution was about to manifest within her.

A self-portrait, her sketch occupied roughly one-fifth of the area of her desktop. When her teacher saw the handiwork, her immediate response was to tell the girl to wash it off. But before she had a chance to sigh in defeat, the benevolent teacher took a pause and said, "Well, let's just keep it for a few days. But next time, use a piece of paper" and continued to turn a blind eye to perhaps the world's most primitive "desktop wallpaper".

Each day for two weeks the girl would anxiously walk into the classroom to see if her alter-ego had survived another night from the fate of janitorial services. Like all graffiti, her work did eventually meet it's doom, but not before it served to shore up much needed confidence in her abilities. Of course, no photos were taken of this, her first memory of success. Nevertheless, the image remains, archived in HD in her inner cache.

Decades later, she continues to enjoy and appreciate art in all its various forms and quietly rejoices each time she witnesses it, imagining all the back stories. Today, her tag is of a different sort: interior design, graphic design and community organizing. She still enjoys painting on blankets, putting her signature on couches and t-shirts, and taking snapshots of meaningful connections. And if you wait around long enough, you may even find her dabbling on desktops.