NYT Art for Tomorrow: Women in Islam
Lalla Essaydi Biography Lalla Essaydi is a Moroccan-born artist living and working in the USA. Lalla Essaydi earned her Master in Fine Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/TUFTS University in May 2003. The artist is now represented by two galleries in the United States: the Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston and the Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York City. Lalla Essaydi’s work is deeply inspired by her Moroccan heritage and is noteworthy for its combination of Islamic calligraphy with artistic renderings of the female body. Through her work, Essaydi explores the complexities of Arab female identity which she imbues with her personal experiences as an Arab woman. Lalla Essaydi often looks back on her childhood in Morocco to express experiences of girlhood from the retrospective position of adulthood. In doing so, Essaydi explores notions of displacement, uncertainty, and the entwining of past and present. The artist uses different media, including painting, videography, film, analog photography, and installation pieces. Across her work, Lalla Essaydi frequently appropriates Orientalist imagery taken from the Western artistic tradition. In doing so, she invites viewers to recontextualize Oriental mythologies and counter distorted narratives of Arab culture perpetuated by the Western lens. Essaydi’s photographs serve to document intimate spaces and temporalities; primarily those of the artist’s own childhood. Essaydi’s work is the physical manifestation of her exploration of identity and home in both physical and psychological terms. Through her photographs, Essaydi returns to the culture of her childhood and seeks to re-encounter her childhood self-whilst exploring her relationships with the converging territories which make up her current existence. Essaydi’s photography features domestic spaces in deterioration and comes to represent the metaphorical spaces of her childhood and the converging spaces that she now navigates in adulthood. Her portrayal of women revokes notions of western sexual fantasy perpetuated by the fiction of 'Orientalism' and her depiction of 'space' marks a striking move away from public life and towards private life. In doing so, Essaydi casts her focus on the sphere of womanhood as opposed to male-dominated public spaces. Lalla Essaydi’s photographs have been exhibited in cities across the United States and internationally, including exhibitions in Japan, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Sharjah, and the United Kingdom. Her work is represented across a number of notable collections, including the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Fries Museum, Williams College Museum of Art, and The Kodak Museum of Art. Essaydi’s book, Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Cultures (2015), delves deeper into Essaydi’s fascination with physical and social spaces across divergent locations and cultures. The monograph offers readers a critical exploration of the female Arab identity and includes essays and luscious illustrations exploring the major themes that underpin much of Essaydi’s photographic work.