Fertile Crescent Core Exhibition Artists:

Click on an artist's name below to read their biography and artist's statement.

Negar Ahkami Shiva Ahmadi Jananne Al-Ani Fatima Al Qadiri
Monira Al Qadiri Reza Farkondeh & Ghada Amer Zeina Barakeh Ofri Cnaani
Nezaket Ekici Diana El Jeiroudi Parastou Forouhar Ayana Friedman
Shadi Ghadirian Mona Hatoum Hayv Kahraman Efrat Kedem
Sigalit Landau Ariane Littman Shirin Neshat Ebru Özseçen
Laia Shawa Shahzia Sikander Fatimah Tuggar Nil Yalter

Complementary Event Artists

Click on an artist's name below to read their biography and artist's statement.

Samira Abbassy Mohamed Abouelnaga Roya Akhavan Najla Arafa
Sheetal Bagwadi Milcah Bassel Siona Benjamin Linda Bock-Hinger
Mary Cross Lalia Eassaydi Dahlia Elsayed Sissi Ferassat
Reem Hussein Natalia Kadish Farah Oussouli Armita Raafat
Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection Naomi Safran-Hon Mediha Sandhu Ela Shah
Soody Sharifi Ifat Shatzky Mitra Tabrizian Patricia Sarrifian Ward
Tamara Woronczuk Shahar Yaholam Emna Zghal  


Fertile Crescent Core Exhibition Artists:

Click on the artist's portrait or the Learn More Button to find out more information.


NEGAR AHKAMI

Exhibiting at the Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University and participating in the Symposium: The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society in the Middle East Diaspora

Biography:

       Negar Ahkami (born 1971, Baltimore) was raised in northern New Jersey. She received a BA in Middle Eastern languages and cultures from Columbia University in 1992, a JD from Georgetown University in 1997, and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 2006.
      She has had two solo exhibitions in New York, at LMAK Projects, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2007, and the Leila Heller Gallery, New York, 2009. Her work was exhibited in a two-person show at the Miki Wick Kim Gallery, Zurich, 2008. Ahkami’s work has also been featured in various group exhibitions, including A Conversation, Marvelli Gallery, New York, 2004; Simply Drawn, Luxe Gallery, New York, 2004; Do You Think I’m Disco?, Longwood Art Gallery, Bronx, New York, 2006; A Delicate Arrangement, curated by Dan Cameron, David Zwirner Gallery, New York, 2006; Iconoclasmic, Longwood Art Gallery, Bronx, New York, 2006; Pink Polemic, Kravets|Wehby Gallery, New York, 2007; How Soon Is Now?: AIM 28, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 2008; East West Dialogues, Leila Heller Gallery, New York, 2008; Firewalkers, Stefan Stux Gallery, New York, 2008; Weaving the Common Thread, Queens Museum of Art, New York, 2008; Iran Inside Out, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, and DePaul University Art Museum, Chicago, 2009, and Farjam Collection, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2010; The Seen and the Hidden: (Dis)Covering the Veil, Austrian Cultural Forum, New York, 2009; Selseleh / Zelzeleh: Movers and Shakers in Contemporary Iranian Art, Leila Heller Gallery, New York, 2009; Tehran—New York, Leila Heller Gallery, New York, 2010; Women Artists at the New Britain Museum, New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut, 2011; and Dis[Locating] Culture: Contemporary Islamic Art in America, Michael Berger Gallery, Pittsburgh, 2011.
       Her work is included in the collections of the New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut; the DePaul University Art Museum, Chicago; the Farjam Collection in Dubai; and a corporate collection in the United States.
      Ahkami has participated in various artist residency programs, among them the Jentel Artist Residency Program, Banner, Wyoming, 2003; the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, 2004; the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Residency, 2006, 2007; and AIM 28, Artist in the Marketplace, Bronx, New York, 2007–08.

Artist Statement:

      My paintings draw inspiration from Iran’s patterned-art traditions and elaborate blue-tiled mosques. I apply multiple layers of congealed gesso and acrylic mediums, and alternate the use of glossy and matte finishes, pearlescent gold, and glitter. The results are visually dynamic surfaces that evoke Iran’s traditions of lusterware ceramics and bas-relief tile work.
      There is a richness and complexity in my paintings that reflect my reverence for Persian art. At the same time, my work upends the perfection we expect from Persian-Islamic art. Taking permission from Western expressionism, feminism, and popular culture, I embrace a personally expressive voice and a raw sense of touch. In lieu of poetry and transcendence, my approach to Persian art reflects the neuroses of our time, as well as those of the artist.
       My images of mosques double as melting, radioactive power plants. The cartoonish meltdowns satirize the brutal Iranian regime at the same time that they satirize Islamophobic anxieties about a nuclear Iran. In rendering these melting cityscapes as both exquisite and cartoonishly menacing, I have created an aesthetic out of the painfully opposing views of Iran to which I’ve been exposed.
      I embrace the fantastical sensibility of orientalist art to create psychological spaces that grapple with my own nostalgia and sense of loss for Iran. Yet, in many works, I subvert the exoticism of orientalism by emphasizing humanity and interconnectedness. My reference to Iranian consumerist fetishes for the West, as in Suffocating Loveseat Sectional, challenges the one-way gaze of orientalism, and suggests that exotic escapism occurs in both directions.

[Negar Ahkami Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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SHIVA AHMADI

Exhibiting at the Arts Council of Princeton

Biography:

       Shiva Ahmadi (born 1975, Tehran) currently lives in the United States. She received her BFA from Azad University, Tehran, in 1998; MA and MFA degrees from Wayne State University in 2000 and 2003, respectively; and her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2005. She is a painter who works not only on two-dimensional surfaces, but also on oil barrels, which function as both content and surface in her work.
      Ahmadi’s solo exhibitions include Oil Crisis, Leila Heller Gallery, New York, 2005; Shiva Ahmadi: Reinventing the Poetics of Myth, Leila Heller Gallery, New York, 2010; and one-person shows at Art Dubai, 2010 and 2012. She was featured in the two-person exhibition Ahmadi and Zhang: Looking Back, Feldman Gallery, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, Oregon, 2008. Her group exhibitions include Detroit Now, Meadow Brook Art Gallery, Rochester, Michigan, 2003; the Biennial Art Competition, South Bend Regional Museum of Art, 2003; Portland Museum of Art Biennial, Maine, 2005; Three Positions, Lombard-Freid Projects, New York, 2005; Figuratively Speaking, Elga Wimmer Gallery, New York, 2006; Merging Influences: Eastern Elements in New American Art, Montserrat Art Gallery, Boston, 2007; Distant Shores: Cultural Exchange in Contemporary Art, McIninch Art Gallery, Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, 2008; Contemporary Istanbul, 2009; Iran Inside Out, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, 2009; Abu Dhabi Art, 2011; Art X Detroit, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, 2011; Dis[Locating] Culture, Michael Berger Gallery, Pittsburgh, 2011; Jasmin, Galerie Sabine Knust, Munich, 2011; and three Leila Heller Gallery exhibitions in Abu Dhabi and New York, 2012.
       She was nominated for an Altoid Award by the New  Museum, New York, in 2008, and received a Kresge Artist  Fellowship in 2009. Her work was reviewed in The Boston Globe, 2007; The New York Times, 2008, 2009, 2010; Art in America, 2009; and The National, UAE News, 2012. She  has taught at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center,  Birmingham, Michigan; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor;  and Wayne State University, Detroit.

Artist Statement:

      Shiva Ahmadi’s works occupy an uneasy psycho-visual space: at once meticulous and loose, playful and somber, mythical yet very much dealing with the real. Much of her paintings are on paper, but also aqua board: a rigid surface best suited for her gouache, watercolor and ink applications. Her grounds are light earthy washes, upon which she builds up degrees of opacity: most opaque is inevitably the color red, generously applied to the point of caking and crackling. The last layer is the most delicate: ornate floral patterns painstakingly applied with metallic gold ink.
      Ahmadi’s earlier paintings were a belated manifestation of a doubly latent trauma, the second recalling the first: the invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003, reviving the pain of the invasion of Iran by Iraq in 1980. Her more recent works have taken on a wider sense of instability related to the so-called region: the mounting uncertainty of a tense standoff between two aggressive regimes. But rather than tackle the emotional charges felt by the civilians of these regimes, head on, Ahmadi has instead chosen an unusual representational detour.
      Playfully selective with her referencing of miniature painting: the artist is even difficult to place within a now canonized group of contemporary miniature revivalists (mainly out of Lahore, Pakistan). Relying heavily on the traditions of the ancient art form, she has created an allegorical realm where faceless tyrants and religious authorities sit on ornate gilded thrones while subservient minions bow to them.
      Sometimes the tyrants seem messianic, with a veil covering their faces and flames behind their heads, some of them are the guardians of nuclear reactors, which float on clouds. The minions are often festive buffoons, monkeys and dogs: they kiss feet, they juggle grenades and might even be restrained by leashes.
      Other animals include elephants and camels floating on candy-like clutter, or stomping on highly ornamental carpets: except the red of the carpet is also a deep pool of blood, the clutters of candy are also cluster bombs, bullets and other projectiles.
      Her painterly bag of tricks (loose splatter vs tight rendering etc.) her intriguing iconography and the specificity of the geopolitics referenced, make Ahmadi’s work at once lush and seductive but ultimately destabilizing and uneasy. This malaise is the artist’s inherently critical stance towards power, be it the dictatorial authority of the worlds she left behind in her native Iran, or the more veiled forms of so-called soft and democratic authorities exercised upon her in her current American context.

[Shiva Ahmadi Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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JANANNE AL-ANI

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University

Biography:

       Jananne Al-Ani (born Kirkuk, 1966) studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art and graduated with an MA in photography from the Royal College of Art in 1997. She is currently Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Arts, London.
      Her solo shows include Jananne Al-Ani, Imperial War Museum, London, 1999; The Visit, Tate Britain, London, 2005; Jananne Al-Ani, Darat al Funun, Amman, 2010; and Shadow Sites: Recent Work by Jananne al-Ani, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 2012–13. She has participated in major international group exhibitions, among them Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2006; The Screen-Eye or the New Image: 100 Videos to Rethink the World, Casino Luxembourg, 2007; Closer, Beirut Art Center, 2009; The Future of a Promise, Magazzini del Sale, Venice Biennale, 2011; Topographies de la guerre, Le Bal, Paris, 2011; Women War Artists, Imperial War Museum, London, 2011; all our relations, Sydney Biennale, 2012; and Arab Express: The Latest Art from the Arab World, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2012. She has also co-curated touring exhibitions including Fair Play, 2001–02, and Veil, 2003–04.
      Al-Ani’s work can be found in various major collections among them the Tate Gallery. London; Arts Council England, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris;
Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création, Paris; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna; and Darat al Funun, Khalid Shoman Foundation, Amman.
      Her work has appeared in various
publications, such as Christine Tohme and Mona Abu Rayyan, Home Works (Ashkal Alwan, 2003); Rebecca Fortnum, Contemporary British Women Artists: In their Own Words (I.B.Tauris, 2007); Glenn Lowry, Oil and Sugar: Contemporary Art and Islamic Culture (Royal Ontario Museum, 2009); Sharmini Pereira, Footnote to a Project* (Abraaj Capital Art Prize, 2011); Jane Rendell, Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism (I.B.Tauris, 2011); and Guy Mannes-Abbott and Samar Martha, In Ramallah, Running (Black Dog, 2012). In 2005, Film and Video Umbrella published a monograph focusing on Al-Ani’s moving-image work.
      She is the recipient of many accolades, including the John Kobal Photographic Portrait Award, 1996; East International Award, 2001; and the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, 2011.

Artist Statement:

      I am an artist working with photography, film, and video. My early work focuses on orientalist representations of the Middle East in Western visual culture and, in particular, enduring myths and fantasies surrounding the veil.
Starting in the late 1990s, I produced a series of multi-channel video installations including A Loving Man (1996–99) and 1001 Nights (1998), in which a series of complex narratives are carried out by a chorus of female “talking heads.” The works address the fallibility of memory, explore the power of testimony, and interrogate the documentary tradition by bringing together intimate recollections of loss and trauma with more official accounts of historic events.
      My work has since shifted out of the studio and into the landscape, and in 2004 I completed
The Visit, the first in a series of ambitious productions to be shot in the Middle East. Since 2007, I have been developing a new body of work titled The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People, which explores the disappearance of the body in the real and imagined landscapes of the Middle East and includes the single-screen films Shadow Sites I (2010) and Shadow Sites II (2011).

[Jananne Al-Ani Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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FATIMA AL QADIRI

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University

Biography:

      Fatima Al Qadiri (born 1981, Dakar) is a New York–based artist, performance artist, and musician, who produces music under her own name and as Ayshay. She graduated from New York University in 2004 with a degree in linguistics. Through her work in video, photography, and performance, she explores gender stereotypes and the impact of consumerism on contemporary Kuwaiti society.
Selected group exhibitions include Eb Beiti Ana Geezi, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, 2008; Starship Counterforce, Aqua Art Miami, Art Basel, Miami, 2008; Goth Gulf Visual Vortex GGVV, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, 2009; No Soul for Sale (as a member of the collective K48 Kontinuum), X-Initiative, New York, and Tate Modern, London, 2009; Mahma Kan Althaman (“Whatever The Price”), Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, 2010; MOVE!, MoMA PS1, New York, 2010; TELFAR SS 2011 (“FORmale”), White Box Gallery, New York, 2010; antinormanybody, Kleio Projects Gallery, New York, 2011; Gwangju Design Biennale, South Korea, 2011; Snail Fever, Third Line Gallery, Dubai, 2011; The Bravery of Being Out of Range, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, 2012; Global Art Forum, Art Dubai, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, 2012; Mendeel Um A7mad (NxIxSxM), CAP, Kuwait, 2012; RE-RUN, Banner Repeater, London, 2012; and Surrender, Fourth Edition, Marrakech Biennale, 2012.
      Al Qadiri has performed in many countries. Her performances include CHLDRN (with Shayne Oliver), The Kitchen, New York, 2009; Yemenwed, Bedroom w TV and Woman Lays w Aide, Performa Biennial, New York, 2009, and MoMA PS1, New York, 2010; Shaytan (part of No Soul for Sale) (as Ayshay), Tate Modern, London, 2010; SOLILOQUY II, P.P.O.W., New York, 2010; Genre-Specific Xperience (video screening), New Museum, New York, 2011, Nottingham Contemporary, 2012, and Sultan Gallery, Kuwait, 2012; and Going OVER, Bidoun Art Park, Art Dubai, Dubai, 2011.
Al Qadiri has also curated a number of exhibitions, and written and performed film soundtracks. In 2011, she received a visual arts grant from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. Al Qadiri is a contributing editor at DIS magazine and contributor to Bidoun magazine.

Artist Statement:

      My visual work examines the interplay among gender, style, and performance by drawing attention to the local context. Sophisticated Google search algorithms allow users to parse information and locate minutiae culled from everyday life, but often neglect significant social rituals that are relegated to the private residential sphere and thus subsequently undocumented. Because of their negligible Google search yield, the Kuwaiti practices and social rituals I address in my work are deemed invisible. Through live performance and video, I create fantasy documentation of said social realities by positing liminal gender identities as the norm, and casting them in a globalized-style setting. My work reveals my fascination with the localized, trickle-down manifestation of global style trends, the reality of consumer culture, and public phenomena. By combining public and private, global and local, the conflation of social barriers reveals the potential manifestations of local identity.

[Fatima Al Qadiri Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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MONIRA AL QADIRI

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University and The Arts Council of Princeton

Biography:

      Monira Al Qadiri (born 1983, Dakar) was raised in Kuwait, and has spent most of her adult life in Japan. Her artistic perspective is a cultural hybrid. Having lived through the 1990–91 Gulf War, she became fascinated by Japanese animation as a means of escaping the harsh realities that she had experienced, and at the age of sixteen she moved to Tokyo on an art scholarship from the Kuwaiti government. As soon as she arrived, she realized that the reality of Japan was different from her fantasy of it, and began to incorporate ideas of displacement and dissonance into her work.
In 2005, she completed her first animated film, Visual Violence. Since then, she has been conducting research into the relationship between psychology and art, and on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle East. In 2010, she received her PhD in intermedia art from Tokyo University of the Arts. She has since returned to Kuwait to continue her career as an artist and scholar, and currently divides her time between Kuwait and Beirut.
      An emerging artist, she has shown in the following group exhibitions: Sultana’s Dream, Exit Art, New York, 2007; In Transition, National Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kaliningrad, 2008; The Second Annual Gulf Film Festival (GFF), Dubai, 2009 (her film Wa Waila [Oh Torment] was screened); Human Frames, Kunst im Tunnel, Düsseldorf, 2010; and Paradisio, Watermill Center, Southampton, New York, 2010. Her first solo exhibition upon her return to Kuwait was Tragedy of Self, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City, 2011. Tragedy of Self was also shown in Japan at the Tokyo Wonder Site and the Harmas De Fare Gallery, Tokyo; in addition, some pieces from the exhibition were shown at the Kleio Projects Gallery, New York, in 2011. Her animation works such as Visual Violence and The Black Moon have also been screened at such venues as the Gulf Film Festival, Dubai; the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival; ; as well as the Shanghai International Science and Art Fair.
      She was an artist in residence at the Watermill Center, Southampton, 2010.

Artist Statement:

       A central theme in my work is the exploration of the dysfunctionality of gender roles within Arab society. I experienced this dysfunction personally while growing up in Kuwait. In my youth, I believed that to be someone in the public realm you had to be a man, so I toyed with this idea by repeatedly dressing up in male costumes and attire. This was not about confusion of identity, nor a narcissistic impulse, but, rather, a psychological reaction to a social reality. In my work, I continue to explore the psychological tension of being female in a male-dominated society through the use of self-portraiture and symbols of masculinity.
      Another recurring motif in my artistic practice is the dissolution of cultural or religious identity in our time. The ensuing loss of a defined self-image has resulted in a sense of melancholy and an urge to escape, both on an individual and a collective level. I thereby incorporate primitive and historical references into my work to reflect on the slow disappearance of a shared culture. The hyper-communication and mass-migration taking place in today’s globalized world produce feelings of estrangement within one’s body. I feel we have to come to terms with this fluid loss of identity.

[Monira Al Qadiri Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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REZA FARKONDEH & GHADA AMER

Exhibiting at the Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University

Biography:

       Ghada Amer (born 1963, Cairo) and Reza Farkhondeh met while they were both students at the Villa Arson, Nice, France. There, they received their MFA degrees, Amer for painting, and Farkhondeh for video and short film. Both also studied at the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques, Paris.
      Amer and Farkhondeh reconcile and construct a new formulation of artmaking and gender relationships out of binaries: male/female, painting/embroidery, individual artist/collaboration. Since 1986, the pair have had solo exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch, 2006; Kukje Gallery, Seoul, 2007; Singapore Tyler Print Institute, 2008; Tina Kim Gallery, New York, 2008; Pace Prints, New York, 2009; Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon, 2010; Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2011; and the Musée d’art contemporain, Montreal, 2012. Residencies at the Singapore Tyler Institute, 2007; Pace Prints, New York, 2008; the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, Columbia University, New York, 2009; and OCAD University Faculty of Arts, Toronto, 2012, have helped enable them to pursue their collaborative work.

Artist Statement:

GHADA: The first question is, how can one “write” painting in the feminine? Then there is the question of beauty: how to convey an emotion and a feeling of beauty when painting.
REZA: The beauty of nature exists outside the domain of art. Do clouds, flowers, and trees have the power to tame artists so that they might be inspired by them?
REZA: I began to paint on canvases that Ghada was preparing for her work. A little later, I began to do watercolors on paper, and this time, Ghada intervened on them.
GHADA: In the beginning, I did not realize that we were collaborating. The first time he left a mark from his vocabulary on my work, that painting became, for me, emblematic of the beginning of our collaboration. I never sold that painting for this very reason.
REZA: Collaboration is a mutant riddle. It is a type of creation that resists control. To be able to continue working, we need to see what the other has done. We reverse roles. That way, we can be both creators and viewers!
GHADA: Perhaps collaboration is a riddle, insofar as we don’t speak or communicate with each other a single intention or direction as to what we are doing. Everything evolves in silence.

This statement is based on an interview with the artists conducted by Martine Antle, published in the catalogue Gardens Next Door (Galeria Filomena Soares, 2010).

[Reza Farkhondeh & Ghada Amer Portrait]
Photo credit: Paul Nathan
Courtesy of Cheim & Read, New York

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ZEINA BARAKEH

Exhibiting at the Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University and participating in the Symposium: The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society in the Middle East Diaspora

Biography:

       Zeina Barakeh (born 1972, Beirut) is a Lebanese-Palestinian artist based in San Francisco. Barakeh obtained her BA in interior design from the Lebanese American University, Beirut, and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her artwork examines how people and spaces become polarized as a result of binary divisions. Through animation, digital media, and archival installations, she interrogates constructions of identity, history, memory, and territory.
      Selected solo and two-person exhibitions include Facettes, Espace SD Gallery, Beirut, 2005; Passages, Golden Thread’s ReOrient Festival, Theater Artaud, San Francisco, 2009; The Third-Half, Anspacher Galleries, The Public Theater, New York, 2011; and Jaffa Mangoes: History, Memory, and Myth, Ictus Gallery, San Francisco, 2012. Group exhibitions include Printemps de la peinture, Martyrs’ Square, Beirut, 1995; Beyond Tradition, Illusion Gallery, Kuwait City, 2004; Journée des peintres, Deir El-Qamar Festival, Chouf, Lebanon, 2004, 2005; Plastic Arts, Middle East University, Sabtieh, Lebanon, 2006; Internal Exile: From Palestine to the USA to Mexico, SOMArts Bay Gallery, San Francisco, 2007; The Token Woman Show, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, 2007; and Proliferations, Rhodes & Fletcher, LCC/OFF-Space, San Francisco, 2009.
      Barakeh’s work has been written about in the following Beirut newspapers and journals: The Daily Star/International Herald Tribune, L’Orient-Le Jour, An-Nahar, Al-Mustaqbal, Al-Liwaa, La Revue du Liban, and Al-Ousbou’ Al-Arabi. Her work has been featured on Future TV, Beirut; Heya TV, Arab Woman Channel, Beirut; and on Arab Talk, KPOO 89.5 FM, in San Francisco. Barakeh’s paintings have appeared in various publications, including the cover of Patricia Sarrafian Ward’s novel The Bullet Collection (Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, 2003) and the Beirut-based arts magazine L’Agenda Culturel.
      Barakeh received the Sheikh Zayed Fine Arts Award from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, and two artist residencies from the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, among other accolades.
She currently serves as Director of Graduate Administration and Visiting Faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2012, she initiated the co-curricular arts platform No Reservations Art, which links MFA students with professional opportunities in the art world.

Artist Statement:

       My artwork examines how people and spaces become polarized as a result of binary divisions. During my formative years, Beirut was characterized by perpetual conflict—political alliances shifted regularly, often culminating in armed clashes. Those who shared geographical and socioeconomic markers of identity with political factions were seen as being a part of such alliances, and, consequently, were considered “accomplices” to the perpetuation of civil tensions.
      In response to these divisions, I conceptualized a space, the Third-Half, in which individuals exist outside of factionalized communities. The Third-Half functions as an umbrella under which I produce my work, highlighting divergent narratives of the Middle East, including Western interventions and regional strife.
Identification + Mobility
M.E. Transit (2012) is a digital photograph collection of my family members’ passports depicting their mobility since 1943 through a series of official stamps, visas, and signatures of the controlling authorities; a fictive passport permits entry into the Third-Half.
Action + Change
And Then . . . (2008-on going) is a serialized work of video animation. Chapter 1, Now, depicts rival battalions in Beirut as individual cells that merge, disperse, dance, and attack. Chapter 2, Scenarios of Return, visits the British Mandate of Palestine. My avatar manifests itself in Jaffa, where my father was born, to fight the British and reverse history.
Media Mobilization
Bring the Money Home(2008) is a multilingual, layered sound piece of Palestinians narrating their escape from Jaffa to Beirut in 1948; political speeches from the 2006 Lebanon War; and a 2008 march in San Francisco against the Iraq War. The piece ends at a party with a conversation about mixed marriages.

[Zeina Barakeh Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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OFRI CNAANI

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University

Biography:

       Ofri Cnaani (born 1975, Kibbutz Cabri) lives in New York. She received her MFA in visual arts from Hunter College in 2004. Cnaani’s videos and drawings  are inspired by the varying perceptions of the land of  Palestine—sometimes pictured as a tourist mecca, at other  times as a hazardous place—during different periods of  the twentieth century. She also bases work on Biblical and  Talmudic sources.
      Her solo exhibitions and performances include Patrol, Herzliya Museum of Art, 2003; The Blind Scenario, Galleria  Pack, Milan, 2005; Death Bed, Haifa Museum of Art, 2006;  Decreation, Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv, 2007; Twister, Network of Lombardy Contemporary Art Museums, Italy,  2009; The Vanishing Woman, MoMA PS1, New York, 2010;  Public Notice: An Exhausted Film (with Cheryl Kaplan and  Kathryn Alexander), BMW Guggenheim Lab, New York,  2011; The Sota Project, Kunsthalle Galapagos, Brooklyn, 2011;  and Special Effects, Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York, 2012.  Cnaani has participated in numerous group exhibitions,  among them AIM 25, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York,  2005; Disengagement, Tel Aviv Museum, 2006; Port-City, Arnolfini Foundation Museum, Bristol, 2007; Playing with Solitude, Ursula Blickle Videolounge, Kunsthalle Wien,  Vienna, 2007; Moscow Biennale, 2009; Prague Triennale,  2009; and Rupture and Repair, Adi Foundation and the  Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2010.
      In 2007, Cnaani was the recipient of the Six Points  Fellowship, awarded to emerging Jewish artists by the  Foundation for Jewish Culture. She received the America- Israel Cultural Foundation Award twice, in 2000–01   and 2003–04.

Artist Statement:

      Cnaani works in time-based media, live-cinema performances and large-scale installations. Her video installations explore the theatrical potential of the urban space and the relationship between architecture and narrative, seeking to dissolve spatial distinctions between reality and mythical realms. Her recent works utilize defunct technologies to present her research on visual memories of the early days of Israeli history, as well as on political and sexual betrayal.

[Ofri Cnaani Portrait]
Photo credit: Elinor Carruci

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NEZAKET EKICI

Exhibiting at the Arts Council of Princeton and performing Lifting a Secret at the Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University

Biography:

       Nezaket Ekici (born 1970, Kirsehir) has lived in Berlin and Stuttgart, Germany, since 1973. Many of her performances, installations, and videos are inspired by her dual German-Turkish cultural heritage.
      In
1994–2000, she studied art pedagogy, art history, and sculpture at Ludwig Maximilian University and Fine Arts Academy, Munich, and received her MA degree in art pedagogy. In 2001–04, she studied performance art with Marina Abramovic at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Braunschweig, from which she received her BFA and MFA.
      Her work has been exhibited at major international  venues and shows. They include the Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Como, 2000; Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2000; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2001; 25 May Museum, Belgrade, 2001; Museo Centro Galego de Arte Contemporànea, Santiago de Compostela, 2002; PAC, Milan, 2002; Fifth International\Women’s Art Festival, Aleppo, Syria, 2003; Fiftieth Venice Biennale, 2003; Fourth International Performance Festival, Odense, Denmark, 2003; Art Forum Berlin, 2004; Art Frankfurt, 2004; International Festival of Performance Art, Boston, 2004; MoMA PS1, New York, 2004; Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul, 2005; Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2005; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2005; The Armory Show, New York, 2006; Feigen Contemporary, New York, 2006; International Performance Art Event, Singapore, 2006; Into Me / Out of Me, Kunst-Werke, Berlin, 2007; Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, 2007; Venice Biennale, 2007; Expo Zaragoza, 2008; Triennale, Bovisa Museum, Milan, 2008; Fifth Latin-American Visual Arts Biennial, Vento Sul, Curitiba, Brazil, 2009; Kunstmuseum Heidenheim, 2009; Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Arnhem, Netherlands, 2009; Kunstverein Friedrichshafen, 2010; First Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art, Haifa, 2010; Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, 2010; Mardin Bienali, Turkey, 2010; Museum Alex Mylona, Athens, 2010; Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Amsterdam, 2011; Istanbul Modern, 2011; Villa Empain, Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, 2011; Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, 2011; Esbjberg Kunstmuseum, Denmark, 2012; Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, 2012; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2012.
      Selected awards include
an artists’ and authors’ grant, Else-Heiliger-Fonds, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 2002; artists’ residency grant, Künstlerhäuser Worpswede, 2004; GASAG Art Prize, Berlin, 2004; Arbeitsstipendium Stiftung Kunstfonds Bonn, 2005; artists’ residency grant, BM Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul, 2005; Arbeitsstipendium Kunststiftung Baden-Württemberg, 2006; U2 Alexanderplatz, Berlin, 2007; artists’ residency grant, FADA International, Toronto, 2008; Arbeitsstipendium für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, 2010; Karin Abt-Straubinger Stiftung, 2010. Ekici also received project grants from the Goethe-Institut International to create work in Milan, 2001; Damascus, 2003; Madrid, 2005; Los Angeles, 2006; Amsterdam, 2007; Jakarta, 2007; Istanbul, 2008; Ankara, 2009; Tiflis, 2009; Athens, 2010; Thessaloniki, 2010; Vietnam, 2010; Ghana, 2012.

Artist Statement:

      The idea, the thought, the draft are the bases for my artwork. My ideas come from everyday-life situations, social and cultural atmospheres. The idea expresses itself in performances and installations.
I
use the body as a means of expression. Sometimes, the artistic idea is expressed using the body alone; at other times, the body is used as part of the installation and within the context of a presentation to an audience.
      The subjects I deal with are time, movement, space, material, body,
and action/interaction. I try to create works of art that leave for the viewer free space for associations and new possibilities. I take specific situations from everyday life and place them into a new context.
      I aim to create
an art where all of the elements are interconnected so as to form a total work of art—a Gesamtkunstwerk.

[Nezaket Ekici Portrait]
Photo credit: Nihad Nino Pušija, 2012

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DIANA EL JEIROUDI

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University

Biography:

      Diana El Jeiroudi (born 1977, Damascus) graduated from Damascus University in 2000. She has been a Syrian filmmaker, producer, distributor, and promoter of creative documentary films since 2002. Her debut film, The Pot, on the experience of pregnancy and its impact on women’s relationship to their bodies, premiered at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in 2005. It was followed by the feature-length documentary Dolls: A Woman from Damascus, which El Jeiroudi wrote, directed, and co-produced with the Danish production company Final Cut; Dolls was introduced at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Forum, 2006, and premiered at the Silver Wolf competition at the Twenty-Fourth International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, 2007. To date, it has played at more than twenty international festivals, including Visions du Réel, Montpellier, and the DOX Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival; it has also been broadcast on several European TV channels and in Asia.
       When not behind the camera or in the editing room, El Jeiroudi works with other creative documentary filmmakers as a producer and distributor through Proaction Film, the company she co-founded in 2002, the only independent film production outfit in Syria operating today. Through Proaction Film, she co-produced three short documentaries and is now in the midst of producing two feature-length documentaries. El Jeiroudi offers consultancies in documentary structure and editing through workshops such as Storydoc, Corfu, Greece.
       Diana is also a co-founder and member of the selection committee of the DOX BOX International Documentary Film Festival, Syria, and since 2007 has headed its Industry and Professional Activities Committee. In 2012, DOX BOX received the European Documentary Network’s EDN Award. The award is annually given to an organization, group, or individual making an outstanding contribution to European documentary culture. However, this year the EDN decided to modify its award criteria to recognize DOX BOX’s efforts to overcome the extraordinary circumstances facing the Syrian film community. El Jeiroudi and fellow DOX BOX co-founder Diana Orwa Nyrabia received the award the day after DOX BOX Global Day, in which the festival collaborated with film organizations to screen Syrian documentaries in thirty-eight cities around the world.

Artist Statement:

       I am struck by the extent to which people have abandoned the act of observing, and are therefore unable to listen or see either “ourselves” or “the other.” When I was a young girl, I spent a significant amount of time by myself, so I learned and practiced observation as a means of meditation. Observing people was my favorite form of entertainment. I enjoyed noticing people’s reactions and gestures, and reading into them what those external clues told me about their thoughts, fears, illusions, and aspirations. For me, that was what was most human about them, and what most connected them to me. It is always amazing how much one can “see” if one looks carefully and listens attentively. It is exactly what I do today as a filmmaker: I observe.
      Whether during the filming process or later in editing, the very experience of “digitizing” human sounds and images, of splitting the two, grants me the ability to be not only positive toward “the other” but also toward “myself.”
      In my films, I invite people to be consciously open to listening and seeing. I think these are the human skills that we need to value most.

[Diana El Jeiroudi Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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PARASTOU FOROUHAR

Exhibiting at the Princeton University Art Museum and the Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University

Biography:

       Parastou Forouhar (born 1962, Tehran) lived in Iran until 1991, when she relocated to Frankfurt, Germany, where she still resides. She studied art at the University of Tehran, joining the first enrolled class in 1984 after a two-year period in which the nation’s universities were closed in order to restructure the educational system and implement, in Forouhar’s words, “thorough Islamization.” In addition to her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tehran, Forouhar received a master’s degree from the College of Art, Offenbach, Germany. The Islamic Revolution’s transformative impact on Iran, paired with the omnipresent collective memory of violence in Germany, has generated a body of work marked by the construction of a complex identity informed by these histories and experiences.
      Forouhar’s digital drawings are often labyrinths developed out of patterns inspired by classical Persian ornamentation. Forouhar depicts figures trapped inside the borders of Persian ornamental designs—a metaphor for her Iranian homeland and the violence it has witnessed. This violence tragically touched Forouhar’s own life when her parents, Dariush and Parvaneh, respected intellectuals who fought for democracy in Iran, were brutally murdered in their home on November 21, 1998. Forouhar has persistently campaigned for a proper investigation into the extra-judicial executions of her parents and other activists murdered in Tehran in fall of 1998. Her commitment to justice provides one of the foundations of her work.
      Forouhar has had various solo exhibitions throughout the world. They include Blind Spot, Stavanger Cultural Centre, Norway, and Golestan Art Gallery, Tehran (banned by the Iranian authorities), 2001; Thousand and One Days, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2003; Just a Minute, Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, Rome, 2007; He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, Verso Arte Contemporanea, Turin, 2010; Parastou Forouhar, Leighton House Museum, London, 2010; Parastou Forouhar, RH Gallery, New York, 2010–11; and Written Room, Fondazione Merz, Turin, 2011. Forouhar’s art has also been presented in many important group exhibitions including the Second Berlin Biennale, 2001; Scene Change XIX, Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt, 2001; Bellissima, Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig, 2003; Intersections, Jewish Museum of Australia, Melbourne, and Jewish Museum, San Francisco, 2005; Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Museum, 2007; Re-Imagining Asia, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2008; Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale, South Korea, 2009; Medi(t)ation, Asian Art Biennial, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, 2011; and 20 Years of Presence, Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt, 2011.

Artist Statement:

       The production of identity, and the repressive mechanisms by which it is reified, comprise the focus of my work. My homeland, Iran, is a constant theme in my artistic practice, but the conception is complex and continuously in flux. Beyond Iran, there is also the collective memory of Germany, where I have lived since 1991. When I arrived there, I was Parastou Forouhar, but I have since become “Iranian.” Every space I inhabit is accompanied by a feeling of displacement.
      The interaction of contradictory meanings is another central theme in my work. In my series of digital prints and wallpaper entitled Butterfly, the delicate form of these insects is contrasted with camouflaged scenes of torture. Only when viewers look at these images a second time, do they notice that the butterfly wings contain wounded and gagged human figures. This series is intensely personal for me, as my mother’s name, Parvaneh, is the Farsi word for “butterfly.” It has become a kind of memento mori for the political assassination of my parents in 1998 in Iran.
      The four-part photographic piece Freitag (2003) addresses the reciprocal effect of the veiled and unveiled body. The unveiled skin of the woman’s fingers is charged with eroticism, contrasting with the cloth of the veil. This duality invites viewers to challenge their assumptions and gain insight into the complexity of the clichéd trope of Iran as veiled woman.

[Parastou Forouhar Portrait]
Photo credit: RH Gallery, New York, and the artist

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AYANA FRIEDMAN

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University and participating in the Symposium: The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society in the Middle East Diaspora

Biography:

      Ayana Friedman (born 1950, Haifa) completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history at Hebrew University, and is in the process of finishing her PhD.
      Friedman’s sculpture, video art, and installations have appeared in numerous exhibitions throughout Israel, Europe, and the United States, among other locales. These include Oh, Mama: The Representation of Motherhood in Israeli Contemporary Art, Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan, 1997; Long Memory / Short Memory, William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, Atlanta, and City Gallery of Contemporary Art, Raleigh, 1998; Ninth Triennale, New Delhi, 1998; Hands, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2002; Biblical Women in Contemporary Art, Hebrew Union College, New York, and Jewish Contemporary Center, Washington, D.C., 2003; Art In the Shadow of the Holocaust, Manna Gallery, Budapest, 2008; Maps, Hebrew Union College, New York, 2008; Anne Frank in the Artists’ Eyes, Peter Wilhelm Art Project, Budapest, 2009; Generations 8, AIR Gallery, Brooklyn, 2011.
       Many of Friedman’s works are in private collections and museums, including the Jewish Museum, New York; Hebrew Union College, New York; Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem; Museum of Contemporary Art, Ramat Gan; Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem; and the chambers of the Knesset, Jerusalem.
       Friedman has curated several important exhibitions, including The Art of Aging, Hebrew Union College, 2004; Shadows and Silhouettes, Israel Museum, 2007; and Evergreen, Avi Chai Center, Jerusalem, 2010–11.
       She has been a guest lecturer at the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Jewish Museum, New York; Israel Museum; and Syracuse University, and has taught a course for members of the diplomatic corps at the request of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
       Friedman writes extensively for Israeli art journals and newspapers. She has been at the forefront of art addressing female subject matter, and promoting artwork created by women and immigrant artists.

Artist Statement:

      When I focus on women’s issues in my artistic practice, I seek to raise awareness as to the ways women have been—and still often are—mistreated. Through my work’s themes, I challenge society’s approach to women—an approach based on historical stereotypes.
      I also address women’s efforts to fulfill their goals in life, particularly their struggle to pursue a professional career alongside motherhood and family life. I explore these issues by incorporating historically female crafts into my work.
      Some of my artworks, particularly my video installations and photographs, were produced in collaboration with female performance artists.

[Ayana Friedman Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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SHADI GHADIRIAN

Exhibiting at the Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University

Biography:

       Shadi Ghadirian (born 1974, Tehran) received her BA in photography at Azad University, Tehran. She lives in Tehran, where she works at the Museum of Photography; she also serves as photo editor of the Web site Women in Iran (www.womeniniran.com), as well as manager of the first Iranian Web site devoted to photography (www.fanoosphoto.com).
Ghadirian’s photographs epitomize the central dilemma facing Iranian women today: whether to conform to tradition or undertake modernization despite a difficult environment. Yet her work is not only about Iranian women. Ghadirian addresses the issues faced by women around the world—censorship, religious restrictions, the relationship of the individual to the state, and self-fulfillment. Her photographs have been exhibited and recognized on many continents as grasping the challenges experienced by .women everywhere.
      Since 2000, she has had solo exhibitions at the following venues: Villa Moda, Kuwait, 2002; Al-Ma’mal Foundation, Jerusalem, 2006; French Cultural Center, Damascus, 2006; B21 Gallery, Dubai, 2008; Istanbul Photo Festival, 2008; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2008; Tasveer Gallery, Bangalore, 2008; Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussels, 2009; Boudin Lebon Gallery, Paris, 2009; CO2 Gallery, Rome, 2009; FCG Gallery, Düsseldorf, 2009; Guild Art, Mumbai, 2010; Queen Gallery, Toronto, 2011; and Silk Road Gallery, Tehran, 2011.
      Ghadirian’s work has been included in many significant group exhibitions, among them Iranian Contemporary Art, Barbican Art Center, London, 2001; Regards Persans, Espace Electra, Paris, 2001; Glimpses of Iran, Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, 2002; Harem Fantasies and the New Scheherezades, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, 2003; Veil, New Art Gallery, Walsall; Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool; Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool; and Modern Art, Oxford, all 2003; Moscow Photo Biennale, 2004; Photo Biennale, Luxembourg, 2004; Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East, British Museum, London, 2006; Rebelle: Art and Feminism, 1969–2009, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, 2009; The Seen and the Hidden, Austrian Cultural Forum, New York, 2009; 165 Years of Iranian Photography, Du Quai Branly Museum, Paris, 2009; Iran: Preview of the Past, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, 2010; Idols and Icons, Yavuz Fine Art, Singapore, 2011; and Oi Futuro, Rio de Janeiro, 2011.
      Ghadirian’s work is represented in numerous major public collections, including the British Museum, London; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Artist Statement:

      Miss Butterfly is going to meet the sun; as she is looking for a way out and reaching for the light, she becomes caught in a spider’s web. Moved to compassion after observing Miss Butterfly’s grace and delicacy, the spider comes to an agreement with her. He tells her to bring one of the insects from the dark cellar and tie it up in the spider’s web for him. In turn, the spider will show her the way out and lead her into the light. But after hearing the insects’ stories, Miss Butterfly feels pity for them and eventually returns to the spider empty-handed, with injured wings; and she makes herself caught in the web to be the spider’s food. Impressed by her courage, the spider sets Miss Butterfly free and shows her the way out to meet the sun. Miss Butterfly calls all the other insects in the cellar to share her freedom with them, but she gets no response. She is so frustrated by their reaction that she opens wide her weary wings and flies toward the sun.

[Shadi Ghadirian Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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MONA HATOUM

Exhibiting at the Princeton University Art Museum

Biography:

       Mona Hatoum (born 1952, Beirut), who is Palestinian in origin, grew up in Beirut. While she was visiting London in 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon, forcing her to stay in England. She studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Slade School of Art, London, in 1975–81.
Hatoum started out as a performance artist, and then moved on to installation and sculpture. Her work addresses violence, the body, politics, gender, and difference. She also works with space, photography, and video as a way of involving the viewer. Hatoum transforms utilitarian objects and furnishings into threatening entities, while deploying physical materials like hair to make the viewer aware of the body’s vulnerability.
      Hatoum’s work has been exhibited internationally. Important selected solo exhibitions include Mona Hatoum, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1994; Mona Hatoum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1997, and New Museum, New York, 1998; Mona Hatoum, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, 1999; Mona Hatoum: The Entire World as a Foreign Land, Tate Britain, London, 2000; Mona Hatoum: Eine Werküberblick mit Neuen Arbeiten, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Magasin 3, Stockholm, 2004, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2005; Mona Hatoum, Darat Al Funun, Jordan, 2008; Present Tense, Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London, 2008; Interior Landscape, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, 2009; Witness, Beirut Art Center, 2010; and Mona Hatoum, Sammlung Goetz, Munich, 2011–12. She has also participated in many prestigious group exhibitions, including The Turner Prize, Tate Gallery, London, 1995; Venice Biennale, 1995, 2005; and the Sydney Biennale, 2006. Her work is exhibited in New York at Alexander and Bonin.
      Her work is represented in museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; National Gallery of Art, Ottowa; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; San Francisco Museum of Art; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
      She is the recipient of major awards, including an honorary doctorate, University of Beirut, 2008; the Käthe Kollwitz Prize, Akademie der Künste, 2010; and the Joan Miró Prize, 2011. Just since 2000, eighteen monographs on her work have been published, the most recent being Mona Hatoum: You Are Still Here (Istanbul, Arter, 2012).

Artist Statement:

       When I went to London in 1975 . . . I got stranded there because the war broke out in Lebanon, and that created another kind of dislocation. How that manifests itself in my work is as a sense of disjunction. For instance, in a work like Light Sentence, the movement of the light bulb causes the shadows of the wire mesh lockers to be in perpetual motion, which creates a very unsettling feeling. When you enter the space you have the impression that the whole room is swaying and you have the disturbing feeling that the ground is shifting under your feet. This is an environment in constant flux— no single point of view, no solid frame of reference. . . . This is the way in which the work is informed by my background. . . . I want the work in the first instance to have a strong formal presence, and through the physical experience to activate a psychological and emotional response. In a very general sense I want to create a situation where reality itself becomes a questionable point . . . A kind of self-examination and an examination of the power structures that control us: Am I the jailed or the jailer? The oppressed or the oppressor? Or both. I want the work to complicate these positions and offer an ambiguity and ambivalence rather than concrete and sure answers.

This statement comes from an interview with the artist conducted by Janine Antoni, published in Bomb (1998).

[Mona Hatoum Portrait]
Photo credit: Jim Rakete

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HAYV KAHRAMAN

Exhibiting at the Arts Council of Princeton

Biography:

       Hayv Kahraman (born 1981, Baghdad) lives and works in California. After studying graphic design at the Academy of Design, Florence, Italy, in 2005, she pursued studies in web design at Sweden’s University of Umeå. Kahraman’s paintings, mostly of women grooming themselves, are in a style based on Persian miniatures. They can be seen as either making themselves beautiful for the male gaze or pleasuring themselves; in either case, they deconstruct the Western orientalist conception of Middle East women as exotic sex objects.
      Kahraman has had solo shows in the United States, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, including Marionettes, Third Line Gallery, Doha, 2009; Pins and Needles, Third Line Gallery, Dubai, 2010; Seven Gates, Green Cardamom Gallery, London, 2010; and Waraq, Frey Norris Gallery, San Francisco, 2010. She has participated in international group exhibitions such as the Sharjah Biennial, 2009; Taswir: Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 2009; Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East, Saatchi Gallery, London, 2009; The Silk Road, Tri Postal, Lille, 2010; Women Painters from Five Continents, Osart Gallery, Milan, 2010; and Disquieting Muses, Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Greece, 2011. She was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize in 2011, an honor that resulted in her work’s inclusion in an exhibition that year at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the exhibition subsequently traveled to the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 2011; Casa Arabe, Madrid; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, all 2012.
      Her work is in the permanent collections of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; the Saatchi Gallery, London; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; American Embassy, Baghdad; and Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah.
      Kahraman’s art is documented in the following books: Lisa Farjam, Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East (Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2009); and Salwa Mikdadi and Nada Shabout, eds., New Vision: Arab Art in the Twenty-First Century (TransGlobe Publishing, 2009).

Artist Statement:

       The body as both object and subject has a central place in my work. I regard the body as the site on which culturally dictated concepts of spatiality are produced. Therefore, through an ontological investigation of the human figure I am able to generate a strategy leading to a reconstruction of binary understandings within contemporary thought.
      This ongoing exploration of social spatiality, which has occupied my attention throughout the trajectory of my work, includes notions of hybridity, diaspora, and the existence of a third space outside the binary. Exploding concepts of socially coded modes of thought and behavior, challenging traditional attitudes toward gender, and exploring the dynamics of nonfixity and ambivalence found in diasporic cultures are all fundamental aspects of my visual language. They are the product of my experience as an Iraqi immigrant.
      Utilizing a vocabulary of narrative investigation, I try to contest and renegotiate boundaries found in social and political space. Whether expressed figuratively in paintings or abstractly in installations, the underlying thread in my work is the attempt to decipher binary concepts of space.

[Hayv Kahraman Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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EFRAT KEDEM

Exhibiting at the Arts Council of Princeton

Biography:

       Efrat Kedem (born 1980, Jerusalem) currently resides in Princeton, New Jersey. She received her BFA from the Midrasha School of Art in 2005, and her MFA with honors from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in 2008. Kedem is a multidisciplinary artist utilizing installation, photography, and video.
      She has had four solo shows in Israel: Heart, Dollinger Gallery, Tel Aviv, 2007; Real Estate, New & Bad Gallery, Tel Aviv, 2007; Real Estate Agency, Dollinger Gallery, Tel Aviv, 2008; and Beneath Giant Ficus Trees, Barbur Gallery, Jerusalem, 2009. Since her debut in 2007, she has been featured in many group exhibitions, including The Roaring Stuffed Animal, Shturman Museum, Ein Harod, 2008; Art TLV, International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, 2009; Standard Deviation, Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, 2009; The Invisible Hand, Sommer Contemporary Art Project Space, Tel Aviv, 2010; I just want to be loved, MAGA Museum Gallery, Milan, 2011; and Line Made by Walking, Haifa Museum, 2011. She has had two shows in Taiwan in collaboration with colleagues from the Documenta 12 Openspace Workshop, Borderline / Mirrorlike, Huashan Culture Park, Taipei, 2008, and Power Show, Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, 2009. Since her recent move to the United States, she has taken part in various group exhibitions in New York, among them Epitaph, Clemente Soto Velez Gallery, 2010; Colored Cactus, Industry City Gallery, Brooklyn, 2011; and Signs on the Road, Winkleman Gallery, 2011. She was included in New Media: New Forms, Montclair Art Museum, 2012, part of the New Jersey Arts Annual series.
      Kedem has received various accolades, such as the EcoOcean Scholarship, Fresh Paint Art Fair, Israel, 2008; Musya Tulman and Malca Ben Yosef Excellency Award, Bezalel, 2008; and the Givon Prize, awarded in memory of Sam Givon, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2011. She participated in Creative Capital’s professional development workshop on artists’ strategic planning, 2011.

Artist Statement:

       I’m curious about the traces left by the temporal flow of everyday life in private and public spaces and the conversions and counter-conversions of objects and materials when they move from one space to another. I mainly work with found objects, an artistic choice I made based on the notion that the world is full of objects and other “stuff.” In light of the cultural landscapes of late capitalism, with the world increasingly filling up with stuff, it has become urgent to think of the found object as a raw material. Building on the twentieth-century artistic avant-garde tradition of the object trouvé, but going beyond it, my work asks viewers to think of the found object as a starting point, not an end result.
      The Reality Show (2012) is an environmental, site-specific installation located throughout the town of Princeton, New Jersey. Surveillance cameras, visible to both viewers and passersby, were deployed across Princeton, broadcasting online 24/7 to the Taplin Gallery, Arts Council of Princeton / Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, the visuals of what was happening throughout Princeton in real time. The gallery was the control room, equipped with monitors to receive the images. Visitors to the gallery were recorded inside the gallery in real time while they were viewing the monitors; the visitors’ participation comprised the performative aspect of the installation. My idea was to make the gallery space function symbolically like the beating heart of the town. I created an orientation map to help viewers find the cameras located throughout Princeton so that they, too, could broadcast their own “show” in real time if they chose to do so.

[Efrat Kedem Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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SIGALIT LANDAU

Exhibiting at the Princeton University Art Museum and giving a lecture at the Bloustein School, Rutgers University

Biography:

       Sigalit Landau (born 1969, Jerusalem) studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem in 1990–95. During that time, in 1993, she also participated in a one-semester student exchange program with the Cooper Union School of Art and Design, New York. After spending several years in London, she settled in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she currently lives and works.
      Landau works with a diverse range of media including drawing, sculpture, video, and performance, creating pieces and installations that sometimes stand on their own and at other times form inclusive environments. Her complex artworks touch on a number of social, humanitarian, and ecological issues, exploring topics such as homelessness, banishment, and the relationships between victim and victimizer, and decay and growth. As much of her work is concerned with the human condition, the figure, often her own, is a key motif.
      Using salt, sugar, paper, and readymade objects, Landau creates large-scale, on-site installations that transform their given spaces. They do so through such means as the destruction or construction of walls, the excavation and creation of new spaces, the building of bridges over corridors, and the connection of interior with exterior spaces. Her work is recognizable and unique, but, at the same time, refers and pays homage to such artists as Louise Bourgeois, Constantin Brancusi, and Robert Smithson.
      Landau has participated major group showings such as the Art Focus International Contemporary Arts Biennial, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Herzliya, 1994, 1996, 2005; Documenta X, Kassel, 1997; Venice Biennale, 1997, 2011; Video Zone International Biennial of Video Art, Herzliya, 2002; The Armory Show, New York, 2005; and Art TLV, International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, 2008, 2009.
       She has received numerous awards, including the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, established by Anselm Kiefer, 1997; Artist-in-Residence, Hoffmann Collection, Berlin, 1999; the ArtAngel/Times Commission, London, 2000; IASPIS Artist-in-Residence, Stockholm, 2003; Nathan Gottesdiener Foundation Israeli Art Award, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2004; Beatrice S. Kolliner Award for a Young Israeli Artist, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2004; and Sandel Family Foundation for Sculpture Award, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2007.

Artist Statement:

       I see my work as being that of a bridge-builder. Both consciously and unconsciously, I am looking for new materials and anchors to connect the past to the future, the West to the East, the private to the collective, the sub-existential to the Über-profound, found objects to epic narratives and myths. I do so using scattered, broken words to define the bric-a-brac of our times and transform them into a soft heap of new dream-buds, acting upon the uncertain horizon.
      I appear in some of my works, but the body is not mine; I represent the body of any human being. I usually do not show my face. I do not have a face; I do not have an ego. My actions are my portrait.
      Politics and poetry fuel my work, which is in essence both political art and poetic art. When I look the ugliness around me “in the eye,” I find movements that range from the trivial to the beautiful. This is the force, the coercion, the weight of this country in which I live. As a worker, I am always shoulder-to-shoulder with the people working with me, even though, as an artist, I am very solitary when discovering/creating my universe.

[Sigalit Landau Portrait]
Photo credit: Eldad Carin

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ARIANE LITTMAN

Lebowitz Visiting Artist in Residence
Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University, Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series Gallery, Douglass Library, Rutgers University, and giving a lecture at the Douglass Library, Rutgers University

Biography:

       Ariane Littman (born 1962, Lausanne) is the daughter  of a British father and an Egyptian mother. In 1981,  she left Switzerland to study international relations  and Muslim history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Upon completing her undergraduate studies, she changed  direction, receiving her BFA with honors at the Bezalel  Academy of Arts and Design in 1991, followed by an MFA,  in 1998. In 1991–94, Littman was Assistant Curator in the  Department of International Contemporary Art at the Israel  Museum. She earned another degree in art and aesthetics  at the Hebrew University in 2004, and participated in a  Jewish-Arab program at the Musrara School of Photography  in Jerusalem. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in the  Department of Inclusive Industrial Design at the Hadassah  Academic College in Jerusalem.
      During several years as a freelance photographer,  her work alternated between the studio and the field.  She covered major events such as Israel’s disengagement  from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and in 2006–08 worked as a  freelance photographer with Marlene Schnieper, the Middle  East correspondent of the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. 
      Her solo exhibitions include Nature Morte, Bograshov  Gallery, Tel Aviv, 1992; Virgin of Israel and Her Daughters, Artists’ House, Jerusalem, 1995, A Voyage into the Sublime,  Herzliya Museum, 1997; White Land, Artists’ House,  Jerusalem, 2001; Hidden Correspondences #2, Artists’  House, Jerusalem, 2002; and Wounded Land, Artists’  House, Tel Aviv, 2011. She has participated in numerous  international group shows, among them Desert Cliché: Israel Now—Local Images, Arad Museum and Museum of  Art, Ein Harod, 1996, Bass Museum, Miami, and Grey Art  Gallery, New York, 1997; After Rabin: New Art from Israel, Jewish Museum, New York, 1998; Between Beauty and Destiny, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, 1998;  To the East, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1998; Love at First Sight, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2001; Disengagement, Tel  Aviv Museum of Art, 2006; and Act of State, Centre de la  photographie, Geneva, 2010.       She has presented at several important conferences  and workshops, including Border Regions in Transition XI: Mobile Borders, Universities of Geneva and Grenoble, 2011;  and Cartography & Narratives, Commission on Art and  Cartography of the International Cartographic Association,  Zurich, 2012.
      Her work can be found in the collections of such  institutions as the Herzliya Museum; Israel Museum,  Jerusalem; and Jewish Museum, New York.

Artist Statement:

      The Wounded Land Maps (2009-12) grew out of a series of artworks called Border Land, created in 2000–07. Witnessing the violence, new walls, and fences erected during the Second Intifada, I used maps to understand the multiple spatial realities of this period. I walked the geography depicted in the maps, crossing borders back and forth as a photojournalist. I then deconstructed the hegemony inscribed on closure maps of Jerusalem and the West Bank by cutting, bandaging, and sewing them together; by performing these absurd and Sisyphean acts of healing a collective wound that marks the landscape as well as the human body and psyche, I succeeded in conveying the existential deadlock of the conflict.
      In Sea of Death(2010), my bandaged body suggests both the slow death of the Dead Sea and human finitude. In the video of my performance in the Old City of Jerusalem, the green thread that sews the closure map also binds the religious quarters of the city together.
      The Olive Tree (2011), filmed at a checkpoint, is both a tribute to mothers and a message of hope. On the soundtrack, Ruth Wieder Magan sings Ladino and Hassidic songs and Salam Abu Amneh, traditional Palestinian songs. Both yearn for Jerusalem, the mother of all cities, now a walled city. Their voices soothe me while I bandage the dead olive tree. At sunset, the tree rejoices like a bride as it reunites with Mother Earth.

[Ariane Littman Portrait]
Photo credit: Yair Tsriker

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SHIRIN NESHAT

Exhibiting at the Princeton University Art Museum
Her film Women Without Men will be showing at Voorhees Hall, Rutgers University

Biography:

       Shirin Neshat (born 1957, Qazvin), who lives and works in New York City, left Iran in 1974 to study in Los Angeles. She stayed in California, receiving her BFA and MFA at the University of California, Berkeley. She then moved to New York, where she married the Korean art curator Kyong Park; the two jointly ran the New York exhibition and performance space the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Neshat returned to Iran in 1990, eleven years after the Islamic Revolution, and was shocked by what she saw. That trip led to her first body of work, the photographic series Women of Allah, consisting of conceptual narratives on the subject of female warriors during the Revolution. Neshat works in photography, video, film, and performance, often addressing the theme of the alienation of women in repressed Muslim societies.
       Neshat’s work is celebrated and shown globally. Since 2000, selected solo exhibitions include Shirin Neshat, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2000; Shirin Neshat: Two Installations, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, 2000; Shirin Neshat, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 2001; Shirin Neshat, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2001; Shirin Neshat, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, 2002; Shirin Neshat, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, 2003; Shirin Neshat: Earlier and Recent Works, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, 2005; The Last Word, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, León, 2005; Shirin Neshat, Stedelijk Museum CS, Amsterdam, 2006; Shirin Neshat, Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon, 2007; Women Without Men, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, and Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 2009; Shirin Neshat, La Fabrica Galería, Madrid and Brussels, 2010; Women Without Men, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2011. Her work has been included in all the significant international group shows, including the Venice Biennale, 1999; Whitney Biennial, New York, 2000; Documenta XI, Kassel, 2002; and Prospect 1, New Orleans Biennial, 2008.
       Neshat has been the recipient of accolades worldwide, among them the First International Award at the Forty-Eighth Venice Biennale, 1999; Grand Prix, Kwangju Biennale, Seoul, 2000; Visual Art Award, Edinburgh International Film Festival, 2000; Infinity Award for Visual Art, International Center for Photography, New York, 2002; Fine Art Prize, Heitland Foundation, Celle, Germany, 2003; honoree at The First Annual Risk Takers in the Arts Celebration, given by the Sundance Institute, New York, 2003; ZeroOne Award, Universität der Künste, Berlin, 2003; Hiroshima Freedom Prize, Hiroshima City Museum of Art, 2005; Lillian Gish Prize, 2006; Creative Excellence Award at the Reykjavik International Film Festival, 2008; Cultural Achievement Award, Asia Society, New York, 2008; Rockefeller Foundation Media Arts Fellowship, New York, 2008. Her first feature-length film, Women Without Men, received the Silver Lion Award, Prix La Navicella; UNICEF Award at the Sixth-Sixth Venice International Film Festival; and the Cinema for Peace Special Award, Hessischer Filmpreis, Germany, all 2009.

Artist Statement:

      In 1993–97, I produced my first body of work, a series of stark black-and-white photographs titled Women of Allah, conceptual narratives on the subject of female warriors during the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. On each photograph, I inscribed calligraphic Farsi text on the female body (eyes, face, hands, feet, and chest); the text is poetry by contemporary Iranian women poets who had written on the subject of martyrdom and the role of women in the Revolution. As the artist, I took on the role of performer, posing for the photographs. These photographs became iconic portraits of willfully armed Muslim women. Yet every image, every woman’s submissive gaze, suggests a far more complex and paradoxical reality behind the surface.

[Shirin Neshat Portrait]
Photo credit: Lina Bertucci
Courtesy of the Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

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EBRU ÖZSEÇEN

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University

Biography:

       Ebru Özseçen (born 1971, Izmir), who lives and works in Munich, Germany, graduated from the Interior Architecture and Environmental Design Department, School of Architecture, Bilkent University, Ankara, in 1994. She received her master’s degree from the Department of Fine Arts and the Institute of Economics and Social Sciences, Bilkent University, in 1996.
      Her work embraces a range of artistic practices, encompassing urban interventions, sculpture, objects, photography, video, film installations, and drawings. Utilizing her experience in the fields of architecture, design, and contemporary art, Özseçen explores the psychological and sociological relationships between space and the body. Investigating the seemingly mundane, she exposes its magical and unseen aspects, in the process, revealing a space where fantasy and memory hide in plain sight.
      Özseçen’s work has been shown internationally. Among her solo exhibitions are City, Coimbra Science and Technology Museum, 2000; Sugar Top Girl, Henry Urbach Architecture, New York, 2001; Fading Lace, Plantage Kerklaan 30, Amsterdam, 2003; Jawbreaker, Edition Block, Berlin, 2009; Kısmet, Tanas, Berlin, 2010; and True Love Soul Mate, Rampa, Istanbul, 2012. Selected group exhibitions include On Life, Beauty, Translation, and Other Difficulties..., Istanbul Biennial, 1997; Iskorpit, Haus der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin; 1998; Friends and Neighbours, Limerick Biennial, Ev+A, Limerick, 1999; Passion and Wave, Istanbul Biennial, 1999; Arguments, Atatürk Cultural Center, Istanbul, 2000; Das Lied von der Erde, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, 2000; Living the Island, Busan Biennial, Metropolitan Art Museum, 2000; Strange Home, Kestner Museum, Hannover, 2000; Barcelona Triennial, 2001; The Big Blue, Tate Modern, London, 2001; Locus Focus, Sonsbeek 9, Arnhem, 2001; Whistable Biennial, 2001; Works, De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam, 2001; São Paulo Biennial, 2002; In den Schluchten des Balkan: Eine Reportage, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, 2003; o.T. [City IV], Leipzig Contemporary Art Center, 2005; Meisterwerke der Medienkunst aus der ZKM Sammlung, Karlsruhe Media Art Center-ZKM, 2006; Modern and Beyond, santralistanbul, 2007; Slow Space Fast Pace, Cork Art Triennial, 2007; Old News 4, Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, 2008; Dream and Reality, Istanbul Modern, 2011; and Zwölf im Zwölften, Tanas, Berlin, 2011.
       She has been awarded several artist residencies, including the Amsterdam Rijksakademie, 1997–98; Vienna Medienwerkstatt, 1998; Helsinki Suomenlinna NIFCA (Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art), 1999; and Paris Récollets Institut, 2003.

Artist Statement:

       The film shows a stack of Burma Baklava saturated with syrup like a cascading skyscraper. Şerbet, “sugared water” in Turkish, is repeatedly re-poured to keep the dessert wet. Each application comes from what remains at the bottom of the tray after each re-pouring . . . in effect a love elixir made over and over again. Desire, companionship, falling in love . . . these are all romantic experiences humanizing the dessert, as if it were a living being. Şerbet is a precious portrait of surrender, an example of what a balanced relationship should be. The film runs from the reel on the floor, passes inside of the projector, goes up to the reels in the ceiling and falls. . . like a metaphor for the syrup, taken from the ground again and poured from the top to the bottom in an endless repetition, signifying Eternal Love.

Şerbet (1999—2010)

       The moment the ball was small enough to fit into her mouth I stopped shooting, but not because her tongue started to bleed. One of the strongest compliments came from a museum director, who said. “I watched your beautiful face all afternoon.” I kept my silence. His mind chose to complete the work with me. The blue room could be any background.
       The sound is important in the transformation of the round form of the jawbreaker into a submissive fetish. The mouth and the jawbreaker coexist and must move in and out of each other for breathing. As the performance proceeds, the sound becomes more and more intimate. I love to watch the members of the audience and see how they move to the sound and how they respond when they see the source.

Jawbreaker (2008–10)

[Ebru Ozsecen Portrait]
Photo credit: Can Akgümüş

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LAILA SHAWA

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University and the Princeton University Art Museum and speaking with author V.G. Julie Rajan at Female Suicide Bombers: A Discussion.

Biography:

      Laila Shawa (born 1940, Gaza), a descendant of one of the oldest Palestinian landowning families, lives and works in London and Vermont. She received her first formal training at the Leonardo da Vinci Art Institute in Cairo in 1957–58. In 1958–64, she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, spending summers with the artist Oskar Kokoschka at his School of Seeing in Salzburg. After concluding her studies, Shawa returned to Gaza to supervise arts and crafts education in refugee camps for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and entered into an informal apprenticeship with the UN war photographer Hrant Nakasian. In 1967, she moved to Beirut, where she stayed for nine years as a full-time painter. With the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, she returned to Gaza, where, for the next decade, she collaborated on the design and construction of the Rashad Shawa Cultural Centre.
      When Shawa took up residence in London in 1987, she launched the painting series Women and the Veil, a sociopolitical critique of its subject. In her next series, Women and Magic, she explored the practice of magic and witchcraft in Islamic societies, embodied by The Hands of Fatima. In 1992, she began her silkscreen cycle The Walls of Gaza, which called attention to the emergence of generations of traumatized Palestinian children.
      Shawa’s utilization of photography in her paintings, sculptures, and installations has been very influential on contemporary Palestinian art through such works as the artist’s installation Crucifixion 2000: In the Name of God and her sculpture Clash, conveying her immediate reactions to 9/11. With her 2008 series Sarab, she returned to painting, executing a cycle of twenty-nine works that assert the role of Islamic geometric patterning as a primary visual identifier of Islamic popular culture. In January 2009, she embarked on two new series, Gaza III and a cycle of works entitled Cast Lead. The latter focuses on the children killed during Cast Lead—the Israeli name for its three-week-long airstrike operations in Gaza. The Other Side of Paradise, from 2011–12, explores the subject of Palestinian female suicide bombers.
      Shawa’s many solo exhibitions include In the Name of God: Crucifixion 2000, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2000; Sarab, 2008, Atrium Gallery, DIFC, Dubai; and The Other Side of Paradise, October Gallery, London, 2012. Her group shows include Art Dubai, October Gallery, London, and Dubai, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011; and Miragens: Contemporary Art in the Islamic World, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, 2010–11.
      Her work is represented in public and private collections throughout the world, including the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; British Museum, London; National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; and the National Galleries of Jordan and Malaysia.

Artist Statement:

       We are desensitized by media violence. New  strategies are needed to overcome people’s  weariness for compassion. In the painting  cycle Sarab (2008) (meaning “mirage”), I represent Dubai,  a modern city rising from the desert, as a place devoid of  cultural identity, through the geometry of Islamic design.  Once altered, the laws of Islamic geometry lose their validity,  resulting in chaos. The paintings ask what is left of Arab  culture when the pattern of the culture itself goes awry. 
      The inspiration for The Other Side of Paradise (2011–12)  was a 2007 television documentary showing CCTV  footage taken at an IDF checkpoint between Gaza and  Israel, of a young Palestinian woman carrying a suicide  device, made to undress to reveal the hidden explosives. It  was unbearable to watch her anguished progression, from  the realization that she was inescapably trapped, to the  realization that she was even prevented from ending the  situation in death because the device was faulty. There are two mutually exclusive polarities. To many,  Joan of Arc was a heroic “freedom fighter,” a martyr and  a saint; to others, she was a cross-dressing “terrorist,” and  a heretic deserving of summary execution. People take  stands on these matters without thinking, but I believe  that it is my obligation as an artist to reflect on these  difficult questions.
      I do not wish to pass judgment as to whether these  women are freedom fighters, resistance heroines of a  harsh occupation, or victims of manipulation by society. I  hope that after considering the contrasting arguments of  “heroic actors” versus “horrific perpetrators,” viewers may  actually think for themselves.

[Laila Shawa portrait]
Photo credit: Inzajeano Latif

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SHAHZIA SIKANDER

Exhibiting at the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series Gallery, Douglass Library, Rutgers University

Biography:

      Shahzia Sikander (born 1969, Lahore) studied the Indo-Persian style of miniature painting at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, receiving her BFA in 1992. She also earned an MFA in 1995 from the Rhode Island School of Design. Sikander has developed an original approach, incorporating elements of popular culture and contemporary theory in dialogue with this historical painting style. By referring to the traditional forms of miniatures, she conjures associations with imperialism, storytelling traditions, and popular mythology. Yet by unraveling the conventions of miniaturist painting, she also deconstructs the postcolonial legacy of the Pakistan region. During the 1990s, Sikander’s work had a major following at the National College of Arts, inspiring many others to likewise recontextualize the Indo-Persian miniature painting tradition.
      Sikander’s art confronts and interrogates the perceptual distances between the cultures designated as “East” and “West,” a poignant and fraught theme in the current political climate. Working in the mediums of drawing, painting, animation, installation, and video, and employing ideas that are often subversive and polemical in nature, Sikander creates artworks that are physical manifestations of the dynamic of our globalized world. Among Sikander’s primary materials are graphite, ink, and gouache, and in 2001 she began working in digital animation, setting her miniatures in motion. Her use of animation, combined with her layering of images and play between figural and abstract forms, destabilizes Sikander’s representations and visually embodies her central concerns of transformation, societies in flux, and disruption as means to cultivate new associations.
      Sikander has had many solo exhibitions, at venues that include the Renaissance Society, Chicago, 1998; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 1999; Tang Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, and Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, 2004; San Diego Art Museum, 2005; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2007; Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, and Pilar Corrias Gallery, London, 2009; San Francisco Art Institute, 2010; Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, 2011.
      Significant group exhibitions include Global Vision: New Art from the ‘90s, Deste Foundation, Athens, 1998; The American Century: Art & Culture, 1900–2000, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2000; Drawing Now, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002; the Venice Biennale, 2005; Power of Doubt, GuangDong Times Museum, Ghangzhou, China, 2011; and many other international venues including the Seville, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Taipei, Istanbul, and Whitney Biennials. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2006.

Artist Statement:

      The digital animation SpiNN(2003) is a pun on the cable channel CNN. It depicts a mass of spiraling, abstracted forms, hovering like a swarm of angry black crows or bats that coalesce into the image of a Mughal durbar hall (the space where the Indian emperor would meet his ministers or subjects). The hall is incongruously populated by gopi women (devotees of Krishna), whose black hairdos comprise the central motif. This “hair bird” is a symbolic representation of feminist agency rather than a direct statement of political resistance.
      In the HD video animation The Last Post(2010), inspired by the colonial history of the Asian subcontinent and the opium trade, an employee of the British East India Company serves as both metaphor for the collapse of Anglo-Saxon hegemony over China and a lurking threat in the imperial rooms of the Mughal Empire. The piece also makes reference to Company Painting, a European-influenced eighteenth-century Indian style of painting that catered to European tastes by documenting the country’s exotic plants, animals, and architecture.
      In Unseen Series(2011), large-scale HD projections reveal the nighttime landscape, recontextualizing my drawings by shifting their scale and re-rendering them amid foliage and architecture. The projection of the multi-armed female form is a metaphor for Doris Duke herself—mythical, majestic, monumental—looming over Shangri La, her spectacular home overlooking the Pacific, where her ashes were sprinkled. Shangri La’s American orientalism, brilliant craftwork, and collections from Muslim cultures make it both engaging and contradictory.

[Shahzia Sikander Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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FATIMAH TUGGAR

Exhibiting at the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series Galleries, Douglass Library, Rutgers University and participating in the Symposium: The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society in the Middle East Diaspora

Biography:

      Fatimah Tuggar (born 1967, Kaduna), attended the Blackheath School of Art in London, 1983–85. She went on to receive a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, 1992; an MFA from Yale University, 1995; and conducted postgraduate independent study at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1995–96. She is a member of the art department faculty at the University of Memphis.
      Tuggar’s work is informed by a broad range of practices, techniques, and materials, among them the artistic traditions of the Middle East, colonial and sub-Saharan Africa, and the European tradition of figure drawing and painting. Her work includes objects, images, videos, and interactive media installations. Her collages and assemblages often combine West African motifs or imagery with their Western equivalents to comment on technology and its impact on both cultures. Her computer montages and video collages blend videos and photographs taken by the artist with found materials drawn from commercials, magazines, and archival footage.
      Tuggar’s work has been widely exhibited at international venues in over twenty-five countries. Her solo exhibitions include At the Water Tap,Greene Naftali Gallery, New York, 2000;Fusion Cuisine & Tell Me Again,The Kitchen, New York, 2000;Celebrations, Galeria Joao Graça, Lisbon, 2001; Video Room, Art & Public, Geneva, 2002; and Tell Me Again: A Concise Retrospective, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University, Durham, 2009. She has participated in numerous major group exhibitions, among them A Work in Progress: Selections from The New Museum Collection, New Museum, New York, 2001; Tempo, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002; Transferts, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 2003; Africa Remix, Centre Georges Pompidou, 2005, and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2006; Bamako Biennial, Mali, 2005; Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, 2005; Street Art, Street Life, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 2008; On-Screen: Global Intimacy, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2009; and The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, 2010.
      Tuggar is the recipient of prestigious accolades, such as the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship, 2001; the W. A. Mellon Research Fellowship, awarded by the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, 2008; and grants from the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, New York, 1999, and the Wheeler Foundation, Brooklyn, 2000.

Artist Statement:

      Borrowing from the realms of advertising, popular entertainment, folklore, and the experiential, I use technology as medium, subject, and metaphor. My goal is to explore the diverse effects of power dynamics on the realities and interdependencies of our lives. Assemblage, collage, and montage are central to my methods of exploration.
      In my computer montages and video collages, I bring together a variety of images to examine cultural nuances; the work’s meaning lies in the space between these diverse elements. I focus on individuals’ internal relationships within the image, tempered by the surrounding power structures.
      My web-based interactive works allow participants to create their own collages by selecting backgrounds and animated elements. Participants temporarily facilitate the construction or disruption of non-linear narratives, blending their personal perceptions with set components to produce real-time conversations that can be fluid, resistant, or expansive.
      I employ assemblage when working with objects. I combine household implements with varying counterparts, but retaining the objects’ functionality so as not to render them mute. In these works, I address the implications of the juggling acts we perform as we adapt, modify, and are, in turn, modified by the devices and power systems that define our environments.

[Fatimah Tuggar Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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NIL YALTER

Exhibiting at the Mason Gross Galleries, Rutgers University

Biography:

      Nil Yalter (born 1938, Cairo), who is of Turkish descent and has lived in Paris since 1965, was educated at Robert College, Istanbul. She participated in the French counterculture and revolutionary movements of the late 1960s, immersing herself in the debates on gender, the status of Turkish migrant workers, and other sociopolitical issues of the time. A pioneer in the French feminist art movement of the 1970s, Yalter experimented with different media including drawing, photography, video, and performance art. She was a member of Collectif Femmes/Art, a Paris-based group of women artists active from 1976 to 1980.
       Yalter’s multimedia installation A Nomad’s Tent: A Study of Private, Public, and Feminine Spaces (1973) represents the culmination of her work on Turkish immigrants, revealing her documentary findings on the nomads living around Niğde. The following year, she created the early feminist-art classic The Headless Woman (Belly Dance); in this video, the eponymous belly dancer is seen only by her abdomen, on which a feminist statement in script is superimposed. As part of Collectif Femmes/Art’s 1978 “Day of Actions,” organized to explore the subject of confinement, Yalter mounted a performance and installation in which she acted out everyday life in a harem using utensils and a few items of furniture.
      Yalter has created several works on the subject of shamanism, including the videos Lord Byron Meets the Shaman Woman (2009) and Shaman (1979). Featuring shamanic masks from Paris’s Musée de l’Homme, the latter piece embodies the artist’s resistance to the appropriation of “primitive” cultures in Western ethnographic museums.
      Yalter has had many solo exhibitions, starting in 1973 and continuing to the present. Recent solo shows include Nil Yalter: Fragments of Memory, Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna, 2011; 20th Century / 21st Century, Galerist, Istanbul, 2011; and Nil Yalter: 1970–1980, Galería Visor, Valencia, 2012. Her work has been featured in major group exhibitions, among them A batalla dos xéneros, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, 2007; WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; MoMA PS1, New York; and the Contemporary Art Center, Vancouver, 2007–08; Bovisa Triennale, Milan, 2008; re.act.feminism: performancekunst der 1960er und 70er Jahre heute, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 2008; Türkische Wirklichkeiten, Fotografie Forum international, Frankfurt/Main, 2008; elles@centrepompidou: artistes femmes dans les collections du Centre Pompidou, Centre Pompidou, Musée National d´Art Moderne, Paris, 2009; Donna: Avanguardia femminista negli anni 1970s, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, 2010; Dream and Reality, Istanbul Modern, 2011; and dress/id: the language of the self / le langage du Moi, Centre d’Art Passerelle, Brest, 2012.
      Her sculptures, videos, and installations are in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Tate Modern, Istanbul Modern, Centre Pompidou, and the Fonds national d’art contemporain.

Artist Statement:

      Witnessing with an artist’s sensitivity the history of intellectual and spatial changes, Nil Yalter, from the 1960s on, redefined political, ideological, aesthetic, and patriarchal narratives with a unique feminine point of view. Inspired by the disciplines of poetry, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and ethnology, Yalter transported all these disciplines into a personal/individual context to form an original and complex artistic field of activity, creating new meanings of countless various levels between past-present-future, I-other, reality-fiction, imagination-memory. In Yalter’s works, constructed memories appear as spaces of immigration, exile, displacement, interfusion and interaction, and the notion of “culture” as an allegedly well-established body is questioned.
      Excerpt from Derya Yücel, “Fragments of Memory,” Istanbul, 2011

      The true woman is simultaneously both “convex” and  “concave” . . . nonetheless, it is necessary that she not be  deprived, neither in a moral nor a physical sense, of the  central principal of her convexity: her clitoris. This hatred  of the clitoris in fact corresponds to an age-old horror that  man has always had for this “virile”—and also natural— component of a woman; the very part that is responsible  for her orgasm in the absolute sense. Every possible step  has been taken in order to impede this orgasm, including  physical and moral mutilation. From such a starting  point it is hardly surprising that, having liberated herself  from the “shame of having a clitoris” and the “sin of  pleasure,” women have subsequently recuperated not  only their personal equilibrium—the equilibrium of a  dual polarity—but also all the available recourses of their  sexuality, a sexuality that is both concave and convex.
      This text is inscribed on the abdomen of the belly dancer in Yalter’s  Headless Woman (Belly Dance) (see page 167). It is an excerpt from  René Nelli, Erotique et civilisation (Paris: Weber, 1972).

[Nil Yalter Portrait]
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

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Complementary Event Artists

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SAMIRA ABBASSY

Exhibiting at the West Windsor Arts Council

Biography:

Samira Abbassy (born 1965, Ahwaz) moved to London, United Kingdom as a child. After graduating from Canterbury College of ArT, she began showing in London. In 1988 she moved to New York to help to set up the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Center, where she currently has a studio and is a board member. Her work is shown internationally. She had a solo exhibition in New York venue in 2007. Her work is in many private and public collections, including the British Government Art Collection, British Museum, the Burger Collection, the Donald Rubin collection (Rubin Museum, New York), the Farjaam Collection, Dubai, the Devi Foundation. She received a Yaddo residency fellowship in 2006, a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2007, and a Joan Mitchell Painting/Sculpture award in 2010. Through April 2012 she will be the artist in residence at the University of Virginia. She writes:  "As an immigrant in predominantly white Britain, I was forced to ask “Who am I?” “Where am I from?” I felt burdened by needing to interpret the culture of my parents, without wholly understanding it. My vocation became the knitting together of disparate languages, conventions and myths. I questioned many aspects of my dueling cultures; integration, belonging and bridging gaps.  As I reinterpreted stories about a homeland, I become a ‘fictional historian’ as it was a homeland that I only knew as child.”

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MOHAMED ABOUELNAGA

Founder of the El Nafeza for Contemporary Art and Development, exhibiting at the East Brunswick Public Library

Biography:

Mohamed Abouelnaga (born in Tanta) studied art and received his PhD in art philosophy in 1997. He is a multidisciplinary visual artist, art professor, curator and developer. He was the first Middle East artist to receive a grant from the Japan Foundation to study the arts of papermaking. In the past two decades, Abouelnaga represented Egypt in the Venice Biennial 2002 and received the First Prize of the Alexandria Biennial in 2001. As a curator, he founded the Artist Book Biennial in the Alexandria Bibliotheca, entitled Imagining the Book , which he directed in 2002 and 2005.In 2009, he was appointed as the curator of the 25th Alexandria Biennial for Mediterranean Countries. Abouelnaga founded El Nafeza for Contemporary Art and Development where he practices environmental friendly papermaking from raw agricultural refuse material. He is also a fellow of Ashoka, the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. In 2007, Newsweek named Abouelnaga as one of 100 entrepreneurs who can change the world. He was also named a Goodwill Cultural Ambassador for Africa by the President of Senegal.

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NADIA AYARI

Exhibiting at the West Windsor Arts Council

Biography:

Nadia Ayari moved from Tunisia to the United States in 2000 where she earned her MFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2010, she co-represented the US at the 12th International Cairo Biennale and in 2011 participated in the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale representing Tunisia. Her work is included in the Saatchi collection, London and the State Museum of Contemporary Art's collection in Thessaloniki among others. In February 2011, her third solo show This Place opened at Monya Rowe Gallery in New York, where she currently lives and works. 

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SHEETAL BAGEWADI

Exhibiting at the New Brunswick Public Library

Biography:

Sheetal Bagwadi (born 1973, Kolhapur)  received her Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1994 and her Fine Arts degree from Dalvi's Arts Institute in 1995, both in Maharashtra, India. Ranked 11th in Maharastra State with a Gold Medal, she has always been fascinated by the sculptural art of Indian temples. Using embossed metalwork, she has represented this ancient art form through modern techniques. She also works in acrylics, painting female figures with added textures to create three-dimensional effects. Ms. Bagewadi participated in several shows Nature show for WWF in Shahu Smarak hall Kolhapur 1993, MuralArt show in Shahu Smarak hall Kolhapur,1994, Summer show in Jahangir art gallery Mumbai, 1995  in India during the 1990s, and most recently took part in a group exhibition 8th Annual Fine Arts Festival‏ in East Brunswick, NJ in 2010.

MILCAH BASSEL

Exhibiting at the West Windsor Arts Council

Biography:

Milcah Bassel (born 1981, Boston) was raised in Jerusalem, Israel. She studied drawing and painting at the Jerusalem Studio School, Alternative Medicine at Lev Hamaga College in Israel and received her Post Baccalaureate in Studio Art from Brandeis University in 2011. Bassel is currently an MFA candidate at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Her drawings and installations explore the complex and constantly shifting relationship between bodies and framed spaces.

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LINDA BOCK-HINGER

Exhibiting at the New Brunwick Public Library

Biography:

Linda Bock-Hinger’s photographs chronicle her global travels from Australia to Zanzibar. She has photographed Masai tribes in East Africa, villages in the Middle East and China, ancient ruins in Cambodia, temples in India, labyrinth souks in Morocco, wild animal safaris on the Serengeti, dancers in Bali, pyramids in Egypt, fishermen on the Amazon River, and Native Americans at PowWow. Bock-Hinger avocation as a photographer became her profession after her retirement in 2000 from a career in education. Her work has been shown in solo exhibitions, juried art and photography shows, public buildings and museums, private homes, corporate offices, and several publications in this country and others. Her international photographs have won many awards and prizes.

MARY CROSS

Exhibiting at the Princeton Public Library

Biography:

Mary Cross is emerita professor of English at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, where she was chair of the English Department. Cross is also a photojournalist and essayist, who has traveled the world, capturing the essence of the cultures and peoples she studies. She has visited places such as Vietnam and Morocco. Her book on Vietnam is titled, Vietnam: Spirits of the Earth, where she collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Frances FitzGerald. Her book entitled Morocco: Sahara to Sea reveals a three year journey in which she captured stunning photos of the landscape and the people in some of the most inaccessible places of the Sahara. Cross exposed their untamed nature and deep embedded aspects of their customs. Other books that she has written and published her photographs are Egypt, Behind The Great Wall, Henry James and Bloggerati, Twitterati: How Blogs and Twitter Are Transforming Popular Culture. Her work was shown at the Bernstein Gallery in Princeton, NJ in 2008. Cross' work devles deep into the history of the civilization she witnesses and carves a place in her lens for even the smallest, most remote villages, deep within the heart of the country, making real and relevant the lives of these peoples in the current time.

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DAHLIA ELSAYED

Exhibiting at the West Windsor Arts Council

Biography:

Dahlia Elsayed (born 1969, New York, NY) graduated from Barnard College 1992, received her MFA from Columbia University 1994, and lives and works in New Jersey. Her practice focuses on the relationship between image and text, specifically how language shapes landscape. Her paintings, installations and prints synthesize an internal and external experience of place, connecting the psychological with the topographical. She pulls ideas from conceptual art, comics, cartography and landscape painting and employs symbols of hard data—text, geologic forms, geographic borders, signs/markers, coastlines, tide schedules—to frame the ephemeral. Her work has been exhibited at galleries and art institutions throughout the United States and internationally, including the 12th Cairo Biennale 2010, and solo exhibitions at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art 2010 and the Jersey City Museum 2003. Her work is in the public collections of The Newark Museum, The Zimmerli Art Museum, Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and New Jersey State Museum. She has received awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation 2007, the Edward Albee Foundation 1999, Visual Studies Workshop 2003, Women’s Studio Workshop 2004, Headlands Center for the Arts 2005, and The NJ State Council on the Arts 2004.

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REEM HUSSEIN

Exhibiting at the New Brunswick Public Library

Biography:

Reem Hussein (Bayonne, NJ) received her her BFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology, 2000 and her MFA from Long Island University, 2011.  She currently lives and works in New York. Hussein has exhibited her artwork throughout the United States as well as abroad, including Muslim-Jewish Art Collaborative Project, The Bronfman Center Gallery in New York (2007) and A Book About Death, SLA Gallery, Brookville, NY (2010); she has lectured at many colleges and universities including Yale, Columbia, New York, Hofstra, Rutgers, and the University of Pennsylvania. Reem introduces the art of Middle Eastern and Islamic cultures through workshops for students and teachers sponsored by the local non-profit organizations, Long Island Traditions and the Huntington Arts Council. Her paintings have been selected by the Art in Embassies Program and exhibited in American embassies located in Egypt and Malaysia, 2006-2010. She says about her work: “ (I use) Arabic calligraphy as a conceptual experiment with language and as a decorative visual mode. . .  as a way to feel connected to my heritage and express the ambiguities and conflicts within my identity as an Arab-American woman. . . I explore the concept of using Arabic as an untranslatable sign. . . what is read in it is the importance of reason, beauty and one humanity.”

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NATALIA KADISH

Exhibiting at the New Brunswick Public Library

Biography:

Natalia Kadish (December 15 1984) received her BA in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts, New York in 2007. She considers herself a Surrealist artist inspired by the Torah, While incorporating the realism of her father, Laszlo Kubinyi.  She explores mystical concepts stimulated by her visit to the artist colony in Tzfat, Israel. Exhibitions in which she has participated include musical events such as Gathering of the tribes concert at Irving Plaza, New York 2008 and Battle of the Bands, New York, 2008; and exhibitions such as Solo exhibits Natalia Kadish Spiritual Surrealism at  Venue Aish, New York, 2010; Water exhibit,  Artists for Israel, in Brooklyn NY New York 2011.

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FARAH OSSOULI

Exhibiting at the Paul Robeson Galleries, Rutgers/Newark Campus

Biography:

Farah Ossouli (Born 1953, Zanjan). Ossouli completed her bachelors in Graphic Design at Tehran University. She worked in a number of design studios in Iran, and now spends her time as an artist living in both Brooklyn and Iran. Her work is multifaceted in their formal, historic, and symbolic complexity for they are an expression of an artist with boundless energy. Farah is curious, well-read, and constantly asks herself "why?” Ossouli is motivated by the place of women within traditional gender hierarchies, and a desire to see change. She draws on numerous sources for inspiration, including iconic western or Persian art, decorative arts (including book illuminations, carpets, fabrics), and handwritten quotes from contemporary Persian poetry.

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ARMITA RAAFAT

Exhibiting at the New Brunswick Public Library

Biography:

Armita Raafat received her BFA from Al-Zahra University in Tehran, Iran and completed her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008. Raafat’s installations and sculptures weave together intricate structures, patterns, and motifs of Islamic and Pre-Islamic Iranian architecture. She introduces an ornamental form transformed by the culture, history and the politics that produced it, and translates it through the lens of her personal experience. In many of her recent works she refers to Muqarnas, an architectural ornament comprised of three-dimensional parts arranged in tiers. Her work has been featured in several solo and group shows in Tehran, Chicago and New York. Her solo shows were presented at 12x12: New Artist /New Work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2009, and the ThreeWalls Gallery in Chicago in 2010. Her work has also been featured in several group exhibitions, including Ah-Decadence at Sullivan galleries in Chicago, and ‘Left’ part of the South Asian’s Women Creative Collective annual exhibition in New York. Her solo exhibitions have been reviewed in several publications such as Art in America and New City. In 2011 she was featured in the Out of Rubble, a book by Susanne Slavick and Holly Edwards, published by Charta. Raafat was a 2009 recipient of a swing space residency with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and she is currently doing a studio residency with the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York.

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SHELLEY AND DONALD RUBIN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Exhibiting at The College of New Jersey Art Gallery

Biography:

Donald Rubin was born in NY during the great depression. As a young child, he lived in austere poverty. He attended a small college in Giorgia. In the early 1970s, Donald and Shelley started their collection of Himalayan Art. With only 3,000 dollars in their possession, Donald and Shelly saw their first Tibetan painting, which they bought for 1,500 dollars. Rubin believes art is an emotional experience not as much a cultural experience. Knowning little to nothing about the Tibetan culture or Buddhism, they hung it in their apartment and continued to collect work of the same culture. Many of the works they collected over the years did not have signatures, so Donald and Shelley Rubin responded to the work out of sheer emotion and being moved by the work itself. Rubin explains it like this, “When you fall in love with someone, you don't ask for their resume or letters of recommendation, right? … you feel them on an emotional level, on a spiritual level … and its the same way with collecting art, I think its best to be able to buy something you really fall in love with, something that radiates in your heart, rather than just a name.” (Big Think Video, Donald Rubin on the Rubin Museum of Art) http://bigthink.com/users/donaldrubin#!video_idea_id=6201. Donald Rubin is co-founder of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation and the co-chair and CEO of The Rubin Museum in New York.

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MEDIHA SANDHU

Exhibiting at the New Brunswick Public Library

Biography:

Mediha Sandhu graduated with a BFA in Digital Media from Rutgers University also holds an MFA in Computer Arts from New Jersey City University. She says of her work: “My art is a reflection of the drama and tension faced by second generation Pakistani immigrants.” She goes on to declare that through use of comic book and graphic novel formats, she can express the complexities of her life. She writes that she wants her work to be “not only a window in for non-Muslims, but a reflection of themselves for Muslims.” Her animations can be found on http://www.ninjabi.com. Sandhu has been profiled in Azizah date. USAToday, date and Jersey Journal Magazine, date. She won the LinkTV OneNation Animation Award in 2007, and received Honorable Mention at Lunafest, Muslimfest, and Box[ur]shorts.

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ELA SHAH

Exhibiting at the New Brunwick Public Library

Biography:

Ela Shah (born Mumbai) received a BA in Psychology, SNDT University, Mumbai, date and a Diploma in Fine Arts CN College of Fine Arts, Ahemedabad, date. After moving to the United States she received her MA in sculpture at Montclair State University date. Although an American citizen, she has held on to her Indian heritage incorporating it into her artwork along with Western influences. Her work has been exhibited in many group shows including Diversity and Democracy in South Asian Art, William Benton Museum, 2004; International Perspectives in Contemporary Art, the Hunterdon Art Museum 2004; Fatal Desire, Queens Museum of Art, 2005; Sultana’s Dream, Exit Art, New York, 2007; Contemporary India, Gallery Projects, Ann Arbor, 2009. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including the Amelia Peabody Memorial Award and Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation Award from the National Association of Women Artists, 1994; the New Jersey Print and Paper Fellowship at Rutgers University, 1995; a Dodge Foundation residency award, 1999; and two New Jersey State Council on the Arts fellowships, one for sculpture in 1999 and one for painting, 2006. He work is in many public collections including the New Jersey State Museum, The Newark Museum, Jain Center in Europe, Leicester, UK (mural); and the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University.

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IFAT SHATZKY

Exhibiting at the Princeton Pubic Library

Biography:

Ifat Shatzky (born 1966, Kibbutz Degania A, Israel) was raised on a Kibbutz. She received a BFA in art and education at the Ramat Hasharon School for the Arts, Tel-Aviv Israel, in 1991. She resides in Princeton, NJ. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Ellarslie, the Museum of the City of Trenton; Mercer County Artists juried exhibitions, and Arts Council of Princeton exhibitions. Shatzky says she addresses the ideological issues surrounding nature and land. Growing up in a Kibbutz, she absorbed the complicated meanings of territory, conflict, pain and war in Israel.

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PATRICIA SARRAFIAN WARD

Exhibiting at the Book Arts Symposium

Biography:

Patricia Sarrafian Ward (born 1969, Beirut) moved to the United States at the age of eighteen.  Ward holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College (1991),  and an MFA from the University of Michigan (1995). Her work focuses on the civilian experience of war and issues of identity and belonging. Her novel The Bullet Collection, Graywolf Press, 2003, about two sisters growing up in wartime Beirut, received the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) New Writers Award, the Anahid Literary Award and the Hala Maksoud Award for Outstanding Emerging Writers.  Her short stories, poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, most recently in Banipal, Guernica and The Electronic Intifada. In recent years, Ward has been exploring the field of book arts.  She is an artist member of The Center for Book Arts, New York, where her installation Re/Vision was on exhibit January-March 2012.  Three of her books are currently on tour in Correspondence, the 9th International Book Festival based in Lodz, Poland (2012-14).  She is also a member of al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, an international collective of artists responding to the 2007 bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad (multiple exhibits).

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TAMARA WORONCZUK

Exhibiting at the New Brunswick Public Library

Biography:

Tamara Woronczuk received her BA in Art/Art Education from Glassboro State College date and her MA in Art Education and Painting from New York University date. She served as an art teacher in New Jersey for many years, educating hundreds of young children in the creation of design, use of color, various media, and the history of art, until her recent retirement. “Twelve years ago my life underwent a drastic change and my relationship with my art shifted. Life alterations, pain, sorrow forced me to look at my life in a new way. Keeping a written journal during this time just didn’t seem to be enough. I took out my brushes, paints and canvas and began to simply create and put my feelings on canvas. As I began to paint regularly, images emerged that surprised me. Instead of isolation and sadness, mystical, colorful landscapes danced across the canvas. I began to see how art was an important outlet, an “other- worldly” place to dream, to find solace and to bring joy to others.”

“Artists are often affected by images they see every day. As a youngster I was very intrigued by the colors and textures of the insides of Russian Orthodox churches. As a small child I can remember thinking that heaven must be decorated with gold, gilding and icons. As I grew up the shapes of domes and arches played a significant role in my paintings and drawings. As a young adult I spent some time in Spain visiting the Alhambra, the Generalife in Granada and the mosque in Cordova and forms of these places – the domes, archways, paths, walls and promenades found their way into my art coupled with the other Eastern images. Although for a period of time I will concentrate on flowers, or buildings or landscapes I always seem to return to the mystical and graceful shapes of domes and arches. They seem to be images I cannot escape.”

EMNA ZGHAL

Exhibiting at the West Windsor Arts Council

Biography:

Emna Zghal (born 1970, Sfax, Tunisia)  lives in New York.  She received her BA at the École Des Beaux Arts, Tunis, 1992 and her MFA from the Pennsyvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1999. She also studied at the Skohegan School of Painting and Sculpture, in 2004. Her solo shows since 2000 include The Scene Gallery, New York, 2002; The Prophet Of Black Folk, Alwan For the Arts, New York, 2003; Œuvres Récentes, Galerie El Marsa, Tunis, 2004; The Tree Of My Mind, 2007, Against Reason,2008; Plato/Pineappple, 2012, all at Miyako Yoshinaga Art Prospects, New York; Interflow, Ogilvy NY, organized by the Museum For African Art, New York, 2009. Among her many group exhibitions are Contemporary Art From the Ancient World, Saint John the Divine, New York, 2003; Nostalgie -Sfaxian artists living abroad, Galerie La Kasbah, Sfax, Tunisia, 2004; BookBlast, Lönnström Art Museum, Rauma, Finland, 2006; Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, 2007; Marked Differences: Selections from the Kentler Flatfiles, Kentler International Drawing Space, Brooklyn, 2011. She has received many awards and fellowships, among them a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, 2002; Purchase Award, Academy of Arts and Letters, 2007; and a Creative Capital Award, 2008. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Schomburg Collection, New York Public Library, Yale University, the Museum for African Art, New York, and Grinnell College.

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Rutgers-Camden Complementary Artists

Roya Akhavan

Roya Akhavan’s paintings from her Nexus series propose richly layered intertwining figures and motifs, recalling the interlaced ornaments of earlier historic moments, but approached by the artist in a much more lyrical way. The relationship between figure and ground is rendered in a much more complex way and the traditional approach to symmetry is thrown slightly off-balance.

Siona Benjamin

Siona Benjamin’s installations and paintings draw on traditional images, cultural references and styles from her Indian Jewish heritage, transformed through her own unique, contemporary pop cultural sensibility. The work presented here , with its rich synthesis of seemingly disparate elements from her rich multi-cultural background, and elements of both her old, and new worlds, includes her large installation “Lilith in the New World,” and several recent “Improvisations.”

Lalla Essaydi

Lalla Essaydi, who transgresses many gender-based strictures of Muslim culture in her work, creates complex, exquisitely-detailed photographic tableaux that reference, destabilize and transform stereotypical images, with many drawn from 19th century Orientalist paintings, of the “exotic” Middle-Eastern woman. In her work, she carefully poses her women subjects in traditional Muslim dress, covers all surfaces with a personal calligraphic text written in henna, and then creates large-scale color photographs that challenge our preconceptions and reframe our vision.

Soody Sharifi

Soody Sharifi’s work in this exhibit, selected from her Persian Delights series, has introduced a saturated monochromatic background to figures engaged in a daily activity; the clothing of the figures or the objects with which they are engaged are imprinted with a rich and engaging pattern, establishing a contrast with the emphatic color field.

Mitra Tabrizian

Mitra Trabizian’s film work The Predator tackles the tensions of contemporary life in the diaspora, using English as the lingua franca of its protagonists drawn from different North African and Middle Eastern countries that do not share a common language. The film also tackles perceptions that the West projects onto the East, a hold over from the Orientalism of the 19th century, augmented in the recent clashes of cultures.

Shahar Yaholom

Shahar Yaholom, an Israeli artist now working in New York, creates dream-like, fantasy images and objects in a variety of media. Her drawings, such as those exhibited here, bring together gothic, mythical, landscape and aquatic images to create emotionally-evocative, multi-latered narratives.