Inspiration and a tune up

The mechanical arts
By IAN SANDS  |  October 10, 2007

I’m lost. I was supposed to be at Aladdin Auto Service in Cambridge like now. When I phone the shop’s owner, artist/mechanic Mahmood Rezaei-Kamalabad, to deliver the bad news, he utters: “Never say you’re lost. Look up. Can you see the sky?” Normally, I might’ve been thrown by this remark. But during each of our previous calls, he’s calmly dispensed spiritual advice.

“I come get you,” he says eventually.

Soon, Rezaei-Kamalabad, wearing a prayer cap, shows up in a Chevy pickup. Minutes later, we arrive at a nondescript space behind the Entertainment Cinemas at Fresh Pond. Once the truck is parked, he moves briskly to where a young couple is waiting inside. Their car is ready, he announces. Thank you, they say, and the woman adds that they hope to attend his exhibition’s reception here at Aladdin. If you do, he says, that will be great; if you don’t, that’s great also.

In any other repair shop, ducking out to retrieve an inept reporter would be bad business. But Rezaei-Kamalabad isn’t running any other shop. Surrounding his waiting room are about 40 pieces of artwork, some steel sculptures, some made of other metals, all created by Rezaei-Kamalabad. Many are rusted red and bear a diverse array of religious images. At the center of it all, atop a massive rock, is a book he penned called The Light — a combination of the Old and New Testaments and the Koran. With so much to behold, it’s easy to see why customers aren’t in a rush to leave.

Rezaei-Kamalabad, an Iranian immigrant, goes to work on a Civic in the adjoining garage. Behind him, atop a lift, is the “Aladdin Car” — a tannish converted Dodge Colt with the steering wheel placed directly at the vehicle’s center. The traditional design puts the driver’s body off balance, he says, and if the body is off balance, then the mind is as well. As he’s leaning over the car to deliver this explanation, I notice his arms, thick with hair and sweat. Is it insured, I inquire? He tried, “but they were asking too much money.”

Later, over tea and green grapes, we get to talking about The Light. Like much of his work, it attempts to unify the major religions. Seven of these books (12 were made) were distributed throughout the world, including to the Vatican and the Iraqi and Israeli National libraries. The one in the shop was actually intended for the Egyptian National library, but it was sent back. Of the incident, he remarks: “I said God wants the number seven in my own hand. With God, there are no mistakes.”

Heading outside to point out where he will place a few of his magnificent steel structures for his exhibit, Rezaei-Kamalabad remarks, “Maybe we can change something in life, who knows, if it change, it change, if it doesn’t change, still we had a good time, and . . . that’s all there is.”

Mahmood Rezaei-Kamalabad’s exhibit, “The Truth of Spirituality Is Happiness,” will be on view Friday through Sunday, October 12, 13, and 14, from 9 am to 9 pm at the Aladdin Auto Repair Gallery, 162 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge. The opening reception is on Saturday, October 13, from 5 to 9 pm.

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