The art of Aalia Rahman isn’t easily categorized, and that’s a good thing. This young artist’s explorations affirm the mysteries of life and the role of the unconscious in explorations of line, form, color and pattern; a kaleidoscope of changing words and images.
Her art doesn’t fit neatly into a single category, instead she produces works that are similar in that they challenge the mind, incite imagination and create a sense of wonder. They differ in technique, but each contains fine threads of stories ancient as time and modern as this moment.
The tapestry begins • “My mom does art, so it runs in our family. I’ve been making art since I was a kid. I never did sports. Art was one of the few things that entertained me,” she says. She was born in India, then spent eight years in the Middle East before moving to the United States, to St. Louis, when she began high school.
In addition to art, she loves animals of all kinds, especially the house rabbits who have been a steady presence in her life. When she adopted Ozzie Smith, she had no idea he was a major sports figure in St. Louis. She just loved his name.
Her love of animals led her to enter St. Louis University with the intention of becoming a veterinarian, but fate intervened to create the artist she would become. She graduated SLU with a degree in art with an emphasis on painting and graphics.
Tripartite talents • Rahman’s artistic output falls into three distinct yet related categories that bring her talents to a wide audience. She creates hand-lettered artworks that she digitizes to create affordable buttons, pins, candles, backpacks, T-shirts and posters. She donates the profits from the Handlettering Project each year to animal rights organizations and shelters across the United States. Through her graphic design work, she communicates messages and ideas primarily for clients in education, health care and in the nonprofit sector. She exhibits her surrealist paintings locally, nationally and internationally.
The beauty of words; a history of ideas • Rahman’s hand-lettering project contains echoes of the calligraphic arts practiced by Muslim people throughout the world. Islamic calligraphy had its origins in the writing of the Quran, the holy book of Islam.
Rahman’s word art conveys strong ideas and quirky puns, sometimes grounded in an image of modern times. Her “Born to Be Wild” image emerges from a furry black head, a reminder that wild things deserve to live in nature, as evidenced by the sightings of black bear, coyotes, foxes, and more in urban areas during the pandemic. “Anything is Possible” invokes hopes and dreams in poster art. “Sip and Slurp” coasters serve a practical purpose, while her “Erase the Darkness” candle challenges us to rise up to do our part to make the world a better place.
Surrender to the surreal • Rahman’s colorful, large-scale paintings hew to the modern Surrealistic school that explores the subconscious and the dreamlike, sometimes bizarre, juxtaposed images.
“When I was younger my influences were the early Surrealists, definitely Dali, but also Rene Magritte,” she says. “My influences today include Surreal artists Adrian Cox and Lauren Marks, who both have ties to St. Louis.”
“In our religion we paint inanimate objects, and not people. My choices on figures is more about keeping my art approachable. I keep things abstract when it comes to identity so I’m not producing a portrait that may not look like the viewer,” she says.
Amplify the message • Rahman’s work in graphic design often communicates important ideas, like her info-graphic on clinical depression that was a finalist in the International Al Jazeera Community Challenge.
Rahman carries intention into her life as well as in her art. As co-founder of the Muslim Professional Women’s Network, she works to support Muslim women.
“We give Muslim women the opportunity to do things professional women do, but in more comfortable settings,” she says. “For example, networking meetings are often cocktail hours fueled with alcohol. We hold networking sessions and serve mocktails instead.”
Aalia Rahman Art
Artist • Aalia Rahman
Age • 27
Family • Aalia lives with her mother, Yasmeen, and her sister, Ain Rahman. She also shares living space with two house rabbits, a two-pound Polish rabbit named Qaswa, and an 8-pound orange marmalade Thrianta rabbit named Ozzie Smith.
Home • Creve Coeur
What she does • Rahman is a graphic designer, web developer and artist who creates hand-lettered art and original surrealistic oil paintings.
How much • Rahman’s word art ranges from $1 for buttons to $65 for a backpack. Her original oil paintings range from $250 to $1,500.
Where to buy • Rahman’s hand-lettered art and original paintings may be purchased through her website, aaliarahman.com. She also sells at pop-up markets at area rec centers and art fairs.