North Gallery: Middle Eastern Artists- Hybridgity
Eastern Artists - Hybridgity challenges
pre-conceived notions of identity, creating an experience in which
established labels become blurred and seemingly contrasting cultures
occupy the same visual space. This combination leads to a
simultaneous rejection and embrace of the old and the new, as these three
artists examine a state of existence that is in constant flux. The
works of Roya Falahi, Sara Rahbar and Asad Faulwell challenge American
misconceptions about The Middle East while also challenging Middle
Eastern cultural norms. As the title of the exhibit suggests, the
work borrows aesthetically from both cultures to form a hybrid visual
construct that operates in between the two societies. In all cases
the art is both personal and political, examining the power struggle that
exists in the post-colonial global community. Religion, politics,
gender, nationality and culture are treated as the building blocks of
identity, depicted and dissected to varying degrees by each artist.
Sara Rahbar’s flags deconstruct nationalism while examining the human need for group affiliation. By deconstructing and then reconstructing American flags using strips of fabric and beads from the Middle East, Rahbar is able to show how the makeup of American society has changed with post-colonial migration often induced by American policies. The construction of the flags brings up issues of political domination as the American flag appears to be simultaneously encroaching on and retreating from the Middle Eastern elements in the piece. The autonomy of both cultural indicators is disrupted, resulting in a new hybridized flag. In doing this, Rahbar examines her own tenuous allegiance to two societies. Born in Iran and living in the United States she is neither entirely accepted by nor entirely accepting of either culture.
Roya Falahi’s monochromatic performance-based photographs reference the practice of veiling for the use of oppression while also examining veiling as a method of disguise and protection. Falahi’s figures, veiled from head to toe in blood-red camouflage, are simultaneously restricted and empowered, thus combining two seemingly contradictory notions of culture and political warfare. The work examines the American public’s response to the often baseless construction of culture and conflict displayed through news and media outlets. If viewed as depicting a veiled woman, the photos may illicit a response of pity for the oppression faced by women all over the world and/or may illicit anger towards patriarchal power structures. If viewed as images of a camouflaged figure, then the photos refer to soldiers blending into their environment for the purpose of survival during combat. In either case the figures are pawns in a larger game, forced to disguise/veil themselves in order to survive.
Asad Faulwell’s mixed-media paintings combine contemporary methods of painting with historical images and Arabic/Farsi text. The photographs used in the paintings are of post World War Two political leaders from the Middle East and The United States. They are photocopied, scanned, manipulated in Photoshop and decorated with paint to form organic and geometric patterns found in Islamic abstraction. By placing these politicians in Islamic patterns Faulwell examines the struggle for power between religion and government while also breaking the taboo on the human figure in Islamic art. These patterns are combined with various types of abstract mark-making and Arab/Persian text to show the similarities between the visual histories of the two cultures. The politician’s name is then written in Farsi or Arabic hundreds of times throughout the painting in the same way that a student of the Quran would repeat a prayer hundreds of times for the purpose of meditation and prayer. This questions the validity of religious learning while also questioning the validity of worshiping political leaders. The text, photos and paint are all interconnected in the same way that art, religion and politics are intertwined across cultures.