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Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc
Start Date: 4/10/2018 All Day
End Date: 4/10/2018

Event Description:
Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc

The Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery is delighted to present the work of photographer Lalla Essaydi in a specially curated exhibition that will open on April 17, continuing on display through May 18, 2018.

Essaydi, born and raised in Morocco, also spent many years in Saudi Arabia; she completed her education in Europe and the US, and currently lives in Boston. Her work balances the conflicting world views and perspectives of the cultures of “East” and “West,” while, at the same time, these aesthetic explorations provide her with a personal avenue toward self-realization and self-identification.

This exhibition will include work from three series: Les Femmes du Maroc, Converging Territories, and Bullets Revisited. All, in different ways and on different levels, focus on the identity of the Arab woman at the apex of three competing cultural perspectives: that of anti-Western, protective constraints emanating from Islamic traditionalists who fear or denounce the cultural pressures of the West; that of patronizing Eurocentric Orientalist representations in which the East was exoticized and eroticized, exemplified by the 19th century paintings of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Eugène Delacroix, and Jean August Dominique Ingres; and that of nascent Islamic feminism, in which Arab women seek to take control over their own bodies, actions, and behaviors in a way that challenges both of the above two masculine-based perspectives.

Essaydi’s lush, elaborately-staged photographs sensitively and cleverly cross these cultural thresholds. In certain images elaborate calligraphic texts are overlaid upon the bodies, backgrounds, and dress of her female models; calligraphy was a sacred art reserved for men, but Essaydi subversively co-opts this tradition, as her calligraphy is drawn in henna, a dye exclusively used by women, particularly to celebrate such important female milestones as reaching puberty, marriage, and childbirth. In other works, Essaydi poses models in the style of the Orientalist paintings, yet the scenes are created with bullet casings standing in for the decorative elements, thus intermingling the private domestic spaces in which unveiled women can relax, with the environment of violence so often palpable in our public milieu. The artist has noted that through her photographs “I have been able to express, and yet, in another sense, dissolve, the contradictions I have encountered in my culture: between hierarchy and fluidity, between public and private space, between richness and the confining aspects of Islamic traditions.”

In conjunction with the opening of this exhibition, curator Tess Vinnedge will discuss how Essaydi addresses the complex realities of Arab female identity based on her personal experience: growing up as an Arab woman within Muslim cultures now seen from the very different perspective of an independent and internationally-recognized artist. Vinnedge’s lecture will be presented in Art #133 on Tuesday, April 17, from 5-6pm, and will be immediately followed by the opening reception for Les Femmes du Maroc in the Thompson Gallery, between 6-7:30pm. Both events are free and the public is encouraged to attend. We are grateful to Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York City for their gracious loan of the works for this exhibition.

Jo Farb Hernández

IMAGE CAPTION:
Bullets Revisited #26, 2014
Chromogenic prints mounted on aluminum
24 x 20” each
© Lalla Essaydi, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
Location Information:
SJSU Main Campus

SJSU Main Campus - Art Building
Contact Information:
Name: SJSU Gallery
Phone: 4089244330
Email: Gallery@sjsu.edu
SJSU Gallery
Additional Information
Free and open to the public!
Event Type
  • Free Food
  • Information Session
  • Lectures
  • Networking
  • Professional Development

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