More to post about Providence, but wanted to share that my artwork has been selected for an international juried exhibition. Hosted by Arts To Hearts Project and guest curated by artist Celine Gabrielle, this online exhibition will open on August 12th.
The topic, Ready to Wear, was a bit different for me. But it struck me that many of the collages from “This Heirloom” speak to fashion in Pakistan in the 1960s. What an interesting time that was – soon after the heartbreak of the 1947 partition but also in the afterglow of what a break from British colonialism could mean. So I wrote about fashion, national identities, and borders, and submitted three artworks. They were selected and will be part of an online group show.
The opening is on Friday Aug 12, and the show will be online until September 12th. Can’t wait to share my write-up and artwork with you all <3
Today I’d like to share an important addition to the Warp & Weft – a poignant story by Marzia Rezaee. In “Leaving Kabul,” Marzia describes what it’s like to be wrenched away from home and family, to be transported to other worlds, and have no control over such critical, life-changing decisions. I am grateful to Marzia for sharing such a personal story and working closely with me to finalize it when there is so much going on in her life. I am also thankful to Noelle E. C. Evans for introducing us. Pls listen to/read Marzia’s story in Dari and English and leave a comment if you like.
Friends, as you know, The Warp & Weft archive of multilingual audio stories from across the world is an ongoing project. Today I am honored to share a new story by London-based artist Afsoon, whose work I have seen and enjoyed in NYC. She writes about seclusion, art, dreams within dreams, and the tenuous line between reality and fantasy. It’s a beautifully layered, carefully measured story and includes poetry by Forugh Farrokhzad. Listen to Afsoon talking about the shifts our minds go through in isolation.
hey friends, i’m excited to be a guest on graphic ear radio tomorrow at 5:30pm! it’s going to be something new as we’ll be talking about my work but also (mostly) listening to a playlist i put together. there will be songs in punjabi, french, english, arabic, spanish and possibly portuguese. pls tune in and listen to some great music.
Dasht-e-Tanhai (The Desert of my Solitude) is one of my favorite poems. It was written by the great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I translated the poem in English more than a decade ago, in 2009. This year I took a recording of that translation and the original Urdu poem to Darien Lamen, a genius at sound design (and much else), and together we created the soundscape for Dasht-e-Tanhai. I wrote about the poem, my translation, and our collab in this piece. The audio and text were published today in The Markaz Review. This is the kind of work I love. Pls read the piece but most of all, listen to Dasht-e-Tanhai here.
“To me it’s a love poem brimming with scents, sounds, landscapes, and textures. It speaks to movement and physical phenomena, to disconnection and union. Perhaps to the cyclical nature of life itself. Faiz wrote the poem while in prison, from a place of sensory deprivation and seclusion, and therefore all the physical world’s vividness and intensity are contained in his words. The poem demands more coloring in, more relief than words on a page.
[…] For me personally, as someone who is permanently déracinée, who lives in between homes and languages, and feels a particular ache for Pakistan, Faiz’s words of love and wistfulness set off untold emotions. I tried to read Dasht-e-Tanhai in Urdu at the Spirit Room, in Rochester, New York, in 2018. I could see my parents and husband in the audience. The import of releasing Urdu poetry into a wintry space, a world away from the fragrant jasmine Faiz describes, overwhelmed me. This recording is a way to be able to say all the words, finally.”
at the jazz loft yesterday with my sister and nephew where we enjoyed the bad little big band. a lovely space to experience jazz, in stony brook only 5 minutes away. got a chance to hang out with loulou afterwards – she and my nephew formed a beautiful bond <3
-There was the same dazzling red glare. The sea gasped for air with each shallow, stifled little wave that broke on the sand. I was walking slowly toward the rocks and I could feel my forehead swelling under the sun. All that heat was pressing down on me and making it hard for me to go on. And every time I felt a blast of its hot breath strike my face, I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists in my trouser pockets, and strained every nerve in order to overcome the sun and the thick drunkenness it was spilling over me. With every blade of light that flashed off the sand, from a bleached shell or a piece of broken glass, my jaws tightened.
-But most of the time, he was just a form shimmering before my eyes in the fiery air. The sound of the waves was even lazier, more drawn out than at noon. It was the same sun, the same light still shining on the same sand as before. For two hours the day had stood still; for two hours it had been anchored in a sea of molten lead.
-All I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife in front of me.
-When I was first imprisoned, the hardest thing was that my thoughts were still those of a free man. For example, I would suddenly have the urge to be on a beach and to walk down to the water. As I imagined the sound of the first waves under my feet, my body entering the water and the sense of relief it would give me, all of a sudden I would feel just how closed in I was by the walls of my cell. But that only lasted a few months. Afterwards my only thoughts were those of a prisoner.
went to see ‘elvis’ yesterday with my sister and nephew. first baz luhrmann film i’ve ever liked. it’s obvious that he’s a devoted fan, so he reins in his frenetic (sometimes grotesque) filmmaking. three things: austin butler is electric – he plays elvis with intense physical and emotional energy and heart. i love that elvis’s career and music are situated bang in the middle of black culture and musical brilliance. and finally, the film allows us to connect to elvis as a human being. that might seem superfluous but for someone who was turned into a larger-than-life brand and money-making machine, it’s moving to break through all that dazzle/packaging and come face to face with human vulnerability. the hold his agent, colonel parker, had on elvis feels abusive and suffocating. reminded me of brittney spears and her struggles and how fame in a hyper-capitalist society can trap, oppress and even destroy.
more about elvis in the film vs in real life here.
at the opening of ‘uncommon threads’ at huntington arts council today with my mom and dad. so lovely to connect with the art community on long island, where i’ve felt very welcome so far. and what a treat that my dad got to see this tribute to his mom as part of an exhibition in huntington, ny (my mixed media piece is at the center) <3
Sonya Dalton: Ruth Asawa, a Japanese American artist, was born in 1926 and lived her whole life in Southern California until 1942 when she and her family were forced into an Arkansas internment camp for 18 months. Describing internment, Asawa notes, “I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am.” Asawa is well known for her sculptures.
One piece, “Faces on a Wall”, has involved collecting plaster masks made from the faces of her friends and family for 45 years. Internment camps and prisons represent a system that seeks to dehumanize and amass individuals into a group—in Asawa’s case, internment sought to label all Japanese Americans as threats to the US. In this piece with over 300 masks, each still holds its own unique details. The conversion of these human faces into artwork forces the viewer to pay close attention to the differences. Despite the large number of masks, this piece is a fierce assertion of individuality. Asawa seeks to re-establish humanity within a mass of people. This piece comes from someone who knows that every person who undergoes a process of systematic dehumanization is still an individual.
friends, i’d like to draw ur attention to ‘ms marvel.’ so i’m not a fan of the marvel universe – i find all of it as inspiring as a coke commercial. but i appreciated representation in ‘black panther’ and i am stunned by the unprecedented, unapologetic and bold brownness, easternness, global southness, south asianness, muslimness, and girlness of ms marvel.
based on sana amanat’s pakistani american marvel superhero kamala khan, the series is a coming of age story but in a context we’ve never seen before. there’s talk about the hijab, scenes at the local mosque, plenty of bismillahs and mashallahs, protective south asian parents, etc but none of this is self-conscious or cartoonish or an existential crisis (such as in ‘ramy’). there’s also clear-eyed depictions of islamophobia (police surveillance and bigoted FBI agents) but they’re all part of what our superhero must vanquish and come packaged with wit and humor.
the cultural and linguistic references are vibrant and real (nazia hassan, what???) and the 1947 partition is at the center of the story. love how the lower third in flashback scenes specifies ‘british-occupied india.’
also love how kamala’s family history holds the key to her powers, but only her matrilineal history, going back all the way to her great grandmother aisha. her nani is played by samina ahmed (another wonderful treat) who lives in an old mansion in karachi.
oh, and the graphics and music are brilliant.
the creators of the series are all brown people from south asia and the middle east. i know it’s disney, but this is a strong step forward that should be supported. we can do it thru viewership and by giving it 10 stars on IMDB. believe it or not they are tracking all that stuff and deciding ms marvel has flopped because too ethnic, too unrelatable, too childish (yeah, only white men or skinny white ladies in sexy costumes are universal).
show u want more diversity by watching the series, creating an IMDB account (super easy) and ranking/reviewing. i wish our kids could have plugged into such stories when they were growing up. but it’s not too late for generations to come.
Alex Greenberger: At stake in Lorenza Böttner’s art was often the concept of beauty itself—what it means to be aesthetically pleasing, and who gets to be considered as such. Western male artists throughout art history have often personified beauty in the form of a nondisabled cisgender white woman—think Praxiteles’s sculptures of Aphrodite or Peter Paul Rubens’s voluptuous females. Böttner’s paintings and performances put that notion to the test by attacking bourgeois images of this sort and cleaving open gender binaries.
[…] One recurring figure in Böttner’s work is the Venus de Milo, the millennia-old ancient Greek sculpture that has been considered a paragon of beauty for many. In its current state, the sculpture lacks arms, much like Böttner. Why, she wondered, do so many people still considered the work beautiful, even if they wouldn’t say the same of her body? To accompany one performance, first staged in 1982, in which she took on the sculpture’s guise, she discussed that paradox. “A sculpture is always admired even if limbs are missing, whereas a handicapped human being arouses feelings of uncertainness and shame,” she wrote in a pamphlet explaining the work. “Changing from sculpture into human being, I want to make people aware of this problem.”
More ‘Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm’ at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in NYC <3
“Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm is the first U.S. presentation of the work of Chilean/German artist Lorenza Böttner (1959-1994). Born in Chile, Böttner lost both arms in an accident at the age of eight. Institutionalized in Germany, where she moved with her mother for treatment, she rejected prosthetics intended to compensate for her supposed disability. In art school, she started presenting as female and assumed the name Lorenza. Although her career spanned just sixteen years, Böttner created hundreds of individual works, painting with her feet and mouth and using dance, photography, street performance, drawing, and installation to celebrate the complexity of embodiment and gender expression. Casting herself as a ballerina, a mother, a young man with glass arms, a Greek statue, Böttner’s work is irreverent and hedonistic, filled with the artist’s joy in her own body.”
When in NYC (even for one or two days), I can’t help but go to at least one art exhibition. This time I went to the Leslie-Lohman Museum (‘a dynamic and safe space where the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies engage in meaningful and authentic art experiences’) to see Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm. I was captivated by her work, her life, and her energy. It’s a small museum but I spent more than an hour there, visiting and revisiting her work and feeling her beauty and joie de vivre. Her arms were amputated at the shoulders after a horrible accident when she was a child but she refused prosthetics and wanted to be accepted for who she was in her ‘extreme’ form. She moved freely between names, gender expressions and identities. Sometimes she became an armless Venus, other times wings grew out of her shoulders. She painted with her feet and mouth, worked in multiple media, wrote, danced, and was a beguiling performer. A force of nature.