Delicacy and strength coalesce in Atlanta artist Niki Zarrabi’s floral paintings

Zarrabi started painting flora with oils and acrylics on wood-grain panels while she was in school at Georgia State University

Niki Zarrabi
Niki Zarrabi at her home studio in Buckhead.

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

Painter Niki Zarrabi is not the first artist to draw inspiration from the femininity, fertility, and mortality of flowers, but her surrealist series on the subject, Femme Petale, feels fresh and modern.

Her paintings have a three-dimensional effect, rendering the flowers with vivid details. The layers and true-to-life delicacy of the blossoms make it seem like the images could crumble in your hands. Vibrant colors ooze from the petals in drips, as if melting back into the earth: a reflection of life, death, reincarnation, and the interconnectedness of all living things. Zarrabi says she has always been fascinated with biology, spirituality, and matriarchy; it’s perhaps no surprise she cites artist Georgia O’Keeffe as a key influence, with her work exploring the role of women as the source of life on earth.

Niki Zarrabi
SHAB, a 2019 piece from her Femme Petale series

Courtesy of the artist

“The colors found in nature are muted, with random, bright bursts, so I mimic that in my paintings,” says Zarrabi, a first-generation Persian American. “There are endless layers and patterns but also a delicacy. The fact that we’re even alive—it’s all so fragile.”

Biology books, house plants, and jars of paint line the shelves in Zarrabi’s sunny Buckhead home studio. She started painting flora with oils and acrylics on wood-grain panels while she was in school at Georgia State University. Since graduating in 2014, the Marietta native has scaled her paintings to include murals. In Atlanta, her work blooms on Fabu Face Spa, the dog park for Portico Apartments in Buckhead, and Fresh Structures flower shop.

Niki Zarrabi
Zarrabi has created floral works on canvas but also Plexiglass, organza, and stretched pantyhose.

Photograph by Patrick Heagney

“With Atlanta booming, there are more opportunities for artists to get work and show in galleries,” says Zarrabi. “Companies are coming here, and they want murals, so the gap between street art and fine art is closing.”

Zarrabi says that for her, painting flowers is a new take on buying flowers for someone. Lately, she’s been obsessed with peonies and magnolias, but her flower of the moment changes. She just wants people to be immersed when they’re viewing the paintings, just as she is while she’s creating them.

This article appears in our Spring 2020 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.