I’m a woman who makes a declaration—to the world and to myself—and then I make it come true, or at least I try.

I was born in Iran, to a family that was culturally Muslim, not religious. I wore mini-skirts. I drove. At 18, I married but went to college. It was a great life, with lots of money that came from oil. In 1974, two months after graduation, my daughter was born. In 1978, the uprising in Iran started. We were all against the Shah. But my husband saw what was happening and said it was time to leave. 

In 1979, we moved to Washington, DC. I went from a life of incredible privilege to a life where money was very tight. In 1988, after marriage counseling and years of trying, we got a divorce. It was very difficult.

I took a course about “breakthroughs.” I realized that I was playing the victim and wasn’t taking responsibility. They asked us to make a declaration of what we wanted our lives to be about. I declared, “I am committed to peace in the world.” I got a law degree, specializing in international relations. I met a man, and we became good friends. The third time he asked me to marry him, I said, “Yes!” But really, as soon as he told me that he helps people figure out their ideal careers, I was hooked. 

In 1990, I started a non-profit, “Mideast 2000,” to promote peace and human rights. I also started a “Women of Vision Conference” that went all over the world. In 1995, I was honored as “Peacemaker of the Year” by American University. 

How did I become an artist? I declared myself an artist! 

I got an email for a juried competition for artists. I didn’t know why I received the email. I was taking a course in making collages. It was a self-development course, not an art course. I entered the competition and got in—and to the next juried show. That cemented the idea that I was an artist. 

I became a welder. I love it! It is empowering to use tools that are traditionally used by men. I made a lion, titled “Africa,” out of steel. It was shown in the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

This is an excerpt from a comprehensive interview.