Chastised and threatened with expulsion from school for the opinions she expressed through her art and plays, Sanaz Mousavi Dillard has come a long way, literally and figuratively, from her homeland in Iran. After waiting fourteen years to get a green card, Sanaz, also known as Sunny, found the freedom to express her love, passion, and compassion in America. In the land of the free, her artistic expressions have won her honors, and she’s happy she and her husband, Phillip, call Woodstock their home.

Teenaged Sanaz, determined to gain a broad education, had to sneak around to study with a mentor who exposed her to philosophy and comparative religion. Some of her finest treasures became books by Plato and Aristotle that she secured from a Tehran library that was going to send the books to be locked away from the public. In her studies of religion she says she came to realize, “Most religions have a basis of love.”

Love wasn’t easy in Iran, though. Sanaz was forced into an arranged marriage, plus, she says, “The government and politics were a nightmare for anyone with a sense of freedom. There was too much suppression for anyone striving for a better life.”

After leaving her marriage, single-mom Sanaz and her son arrived in America in 2014 to join her mother, Fatima. Having received a bachelor’s degree in English literature in Tehran, she next pursued her master’s at Kennesaw State University.

At work Sanaz scheduled appointments and surgeries for a large medical association. “I saw what women go through when they have breast cancer,” she relates. “I saw their shame, pain, and embarrassment of feeling they weren’t good enough. I saw men who weren’t supportive or understanding of what their wives were going through. I wanted my art to encourage and celebrate women who are marginalized.” Her artworks express heartfelt messages amid symbolism.

Phillip encouraged her to leave the medical industry and follow her passion for art. “I’d studied watercolor under a master in Iran, so I poured my expression for literature, philosophy, and American culture into my art, combining it with the deep and beautiful Persian culture.” She chose AsheqArt for the name of her company, because asheq means lover. “I chose that word because it is the theme of my life. Our mission should be to love each other.”

Sanaz’s works have brought her honors, the latest of which was that the City of Woodstock 2023 Christmas card featured her watercolors. One shows the city’s thirty-foot Christmas tree with a full moon overhead; the other features the Park at City Center gazebo decorated for Christmas. It’s no mystery why Sanaz was chosen to be the artist for the city’s holiday cards. Madison Beaulieu, economic development operations manager for the City of Woodstock, praises Sanaz and her work. “She is a gift to our community. Her bright, encouraging spirit shines in all she does. Her colorful artwork, watercolor classes, and beautiful tea blends have been a hit at Made Mercantile, and I’m excited to see her continue to grow her business.”

At Made Mercantile, Sanaz teaches watercolor classes and sells her original acrylic paintings and watercolors as well as calendars and blank note cards illustrated with prints of her watercolors. She’s also a calligrapher, and here’s the surprise: she sells tea she creates by combining a variety of unique ingredients. “Tea has been my passion since I was a kid,” Sanaz reveals. “Drinking tea is a social activity and a good excuse to discuss subjects related to love. The aromas and tastes make people relax and remember where they came from. We all came from heaven and we all return to heaven. When we drink tea we can remember our roots and forget about our troubles.”

Visit AsheqArt.com…

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Enjoy Cherokee / Women in Art (Photo Credit: Emily Danielle Cumana/Em Danielle Photography)