Art of Steel

By Fallon Coster

As two of my friends and I approached Aladdin Auto Repair, we heard a cheerful voice yell, “Welcome! Please come in!” Once we entered the garage, we could see Mahmood Rezaei Kamalabad. The shop’s ordinary outside appearance and its location behind an old movie theater were deceiving. Inside, the space was separated into two areas: one side of the garage was filled with beautiful art, and in the other were automobile tools and a car awaiting repair. It was surprisingly relaxing and homey inside the building, with the aroma of perfume lurking in the air.            

We sat down at a coffee table and waited for Kamalabad to finish working. As I eagerly anticipated our interview, he yelled over to us, “Please help yourselves to the chocolates at the desk!” Once he was finished, he sat down with us to discuss his unique art gallery and lifestyle. The conversation began around basic questions of religion and life and moved to deep details on both points. Listening to this man speak was an intriguing and inspiring experience.

Kamalabad spoke of the process of creating a piece of art. He explained that art does not begin with thought; it begins with the imagination. He creates all of his steel works while in a deep meditative state. While in this state, he sees an image in his mind that he feels must be shared with the world. These images are mostly spiritual and have an important life message to convey. Then he cuts and welds until he has made his image tangible, to communicate and tell the observer a story.

The art that we saw in the shop was created to educate its audience. Kamalabad explained to us that his art was inspired by the unity between God and His people. In his art, an upward direction represents the artist’s knowledge of the positive aura. The upward arrow symbolizes a connection with God and is pointing towards the heavens. God, the creator, is the main muse for the works of art he creates.

The mystical mechanic taught us about upward and downward imagery on his dry erase board. He asked us which one of the two arrows (up or down) “was more appealing.” We all chose the upward arrow. He smiled and told us that this is the natural reaction because this arrow symbolizes optimism and long life, whereas the downward arrow symbolizes a short life and negativity.

A very interesting point that Kamalabad made was about our duty, as God’s creations, to our earth. He explained that if someone walks by a tree where a branch is hanging dangerously, it is the first passerby’s duty to cut it down. We are all responsible for the earth around us, because it is a part of us. Kamalabad stated, “Everything human has God in him, living in him. And we live inside God’s earth.”

Not only an artist and a mechanic, this man is also a religious writer who has written a Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic Bible called The Book of Light. The Bible is displayed on a rock that Kamalabad found in the woods. He dug up this rock to find out that it was a huge heart shape. He knew, through a message from God, that this rock was meant to be with his book. For an attractive look, he made a decorative steel base with a clock center to hold the rock and the book. We smelled the rock, and it held the scent of sweet perfume that the artist had applied.

Additionally, Kamalabad showed us a piece of his culture’s fashion history. He introduced us to a winter kimono made of camel wool with a purple velvet lining. (Purple is Kamalabad’s favorite color.) He had a hat of the same material that was made by contouring camel wool into an oval shape. He also showed us a large coconut that was used as a handbag and a pair of shoes handmade from cotton and sheepskin for a combination of comfort and strength. He told us that as fashion students, it is important for us to remember all of the cultural influences in design and to remember that design plays an important role for the happiness of the consumer.

Although we had had trouble finding the auto body shop, our visit to the Aladdin was an immensely rewarding experience. Mahmood Rezaei Kamalabad showed us an entirely new way of living. Sensitive to the fact that we were fashion students, he customized our visit to relate to our trade and to inspire us to continue in design. This man, who lives a life of science and religion as well as mechanics and art, showed us the range of talent that is possible in a single individual.

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