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Spotlight Artist: Shirin Neshat

October 3, 2017

 

Shirin Neshat (Persian: شیرین نشاط‎‎; born March 26, 1957) is an Iranian visual artist who lives in New York City, known primarily for her work in film, video and photography.[3] Her artwork centers on the contrasts between Islam and the West, femininity and masculinity, public life and private life, antiquity and modernity, and bridging the spaces between these subjects.[1][4]

Neshat’s earliest works were photographs, such as the Unveiling (1993) and Women of Allah (1993–97) series, which explore notions of femininity in relation to Islamic fundamentalism and militancy in her home country.[13] As a way of coping with the discrepancy between the culture that she was experiencing and that of the pre-revolution Iran in which she was raised, she began her first mature body of work, the Women of Allah series, portraits of women entirely overlaid by Persian calligraphy.

Her work refers to the social, cultural and religious codes of Muslim societies and the complexity of certain oppositions, such as man and woman. Neshat often emphasizes this theme showing two or more coordinated films concurrently, creating stark visual contrasts through motifs such as light and dark, black and white, male and female. Neshat has also made more traditional narrative short films, such as Zarin.

The work of Neshat addresses the social, political and psychological dimensions of women's experience in contemporary Islamic societies. Although Neshat actively resists stereotypical representations of Islam, her artistic objectives are not explicitly polemical. Rather, her work recognizes the complex intellectual and religious forces shaping the identity of Muslim women throughout the world. Using Persian poetry and calligraphy she examined concepts such as martyrdom, the space of exile, the issues of identity and femininity. (excerpt from wikipedia)

 

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Essential Questions

  • What is the current state of women in the Middle East?

  • How does Neshat's work address this?

  • How does her choice of media and aesthetic choices affect the meaning of her work?

  • Why does Islam have an appeal to such a wide audience?  How does her work comment on this?

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