June 11, 2005 - July 23, 2005

Curated by Isolde Brielmaier

  • Lalla Essaydi

Saltworks Gallery is pleased to present, Embodiments, the first solo-exhibition of work in the southern United States by Moroccan-born artist Lalla Essaydi. Essaydi’s installation explores the relationship between memory and experience. Using photographic banners, sound and film, the female body becomes a means through which to investigate the tension between the confinement and fluidity in the Islamic culture in which she grew up. This work is a part of Essaydi’s broader aim to challenge spatial and gender boundaries within Islamic traditions as well as the global perceptions of these traditions.

In photographing women whose bodies are inscribed with henna, Essaydi emphasizes their decorative role while also interrogating the “silence of confinement” in which they live. The calligraphic writing, a sacred Islamic art form inaccessible to women, constitutes an act of rebellion while the henna, a form of adornment considered “women’s work,” further emphasizes the subversiveness of the act.

In her film script, Essaydi speaks her thoughts and experiences directly, as a woman caught somewhere between past and present. It is this script that the film’s central figure writes in Arabic, covering herself, the walls and her dress. Essaydi explains, “It was my sense of the tension between confinement and fluidity in Islamic culture that led me to include film as well as still photography in my work. I wanted the viewer of the film to be drawn into the flow of time and space – as the narrative unfolds, so that the viewer is free to experience movement through both public and private space. Yet at the same time, I wanted to convey a narrative that can tell the story of a young girl’s gradual confinement within a hierarchical social structure.”

Lalla A. Essaydi grew up in Morocco, and lived in Saudi Arabia for many years.  She now lives in Boston, where she received her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/TUFTS University in May 2003. Her work has been exhibited in many major U.S. and European cities, including Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Texas, Buffalo, Colorado, New York, Syria, and the Netherlands, and is represented in a number of collections, including the Williams College Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Fries Museum, the Netherlands, and The Kodak Museum of Art. Her art, which often combines Islamic calligraphy with representations of the female body, addresses the complex reality of Arab female identity from the unique perspective of personal experience.