Arbabi began painting in childhood. From 1961 until 1965 she studied at the School of Fine Arts in Tehran, before spending four years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. She taught art at the University of Tehran in the late 1960s to 1974. After moving to the United States she gained her MFA in painting and printmaking from American University, the former in 1980 and the latter in 1983.
Arbabi’s 1984 work Plumb Line, in mixed media on paper, is owned by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. A large collection of her art is held by the University of Maryland Art Gallery. Her 1996 mixed-media work Untitled #2 is owned by the United States Mission to the United Nations. During her career she has shown her work at many solo and group exhibitions internationally, both in Europe and the United States. Her work has been exhibited in such prestigious galleries and venues such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Baumgartner and Robert Brown Galleries in Washington, DC and has been the subject of numerous studies of contemporary painting. It can be found in more than two dozen private and public collections.