The work of photographer Lalla Essaydi sits somewhere inside the gaps Said felt so keenly. Part of a new wave of Moroccan artists enjoying success under the liberalized reign of King Mohammed VI (who holds some of Essaydi's pieces in his private collection), she lives in New York City and works from her family home in Morocco, a large and elaborate house dating back to the 16th century. The portraits she shoots inside -- always of women -- recall 19th century French depictions of Arab concubines, popularly known as odalisques.
In Essaydi's portraits, you can see the ghost of the naked odalisque -- objectified even in being termed. But Essaydi's women show little flesh. They gaze into the camera, as if challenging the viewer directly. Some look positively regal, like the women in her "Bullet" series, who wear a sort of chain metal she fashioned out of flattened bullets.
For the full article, please visit The Huffington Post
Few buildings on the Upper West Side possess the kind of iconic exteriors that stop people in their tracks. There is the Dakota, perhaps, where John Lennon was shot; the San Remo’s twin towers; and the Ansonia, that 17-floor Beaux Arts beauty occupying an enviable stretch of Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets.
In the living room is a sepia image by Bill Cotter of a cash register in the sky; a second look reveals the tally on the till to be a date: 8121965, or July 12, 1965, a day during the World’s Fair in Queens. Nearby is a three-panel artwork of a lounging woman by Moroccan photographer Lalla Essaydi; the piece, “Les Femmes du Maroc,” is a photo graffitied in henna.
For the full article, please visit The New York Post
At first, Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi’s latest project looks like a fashion spread in Vogue magazine: Beautiful women with long, flowing black hair. Shimmering dresses melting into shiny backgrounds. Henna covering every inch of bare skin.
Essaydi’s work is decidedly not that. Darkness emanates from the sparkle.
They adorn every surface of Essaydi’s creations. The casings are woven into the costumes and threaded around the women.
Essaydi has never viewed herself as a militant. Instead, she has made art that is a constant investigation of the polarization between East and West — art that dispels crude stereotypes of Arab culture and women. She uses the female body to make her viewers acutely aware of a voyeuristic tradition in Western art.
For the full article and images from Lalla Essaydi's series, Bullets, please visit CNN
For the past six years, Moroccan-born photographer Lalla Essaydi has labored over a body of photographs made in a large, unoccupied home in her native country. She splits her time between Morocco and the U.S., transporting materials ranging from fabrics to bullet castings to a property owned by her family. The house is not just a distant studio space, though; it is a vital part of the narrative in Ms. Essaydi’s images that explore the Arab female identity. The vacant family home where her photographs are made once served as disciplinary space, where a young woman was sent when she disobeyed by stepping beyond the “permissible space.” The woman would spend a month alone in the house, where she was not spoken to by anyone, including the servants who were her only company.
For more on Lalla Essaydi and Arab female identity, please visit The Wall Street Journal
For followers of women's rights in the Arab world, the headlines of the past few months have been bitterly disappointing. "Women Among the Biggest Losers in Arab Spring," announced one recent news story, while another shouted, "Why does the world ignore violence against Arab women in public spaces?" The question is vexing because of the prominent role that women played in the Arab Spring revolutions that transformed the Middle East. Lalla Essaydi sees those headlines and recoils, but as a prominent artist from the Arab world who now lives in the United States, she can make photos that seem an emphatic antidote to the news from Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.
For the full article, please visit SF Weekly.
Middle Eastern women, supposedly powerless and oppressed behind walls and veils, are in fact a force in both society and the arts. They played a major role in the Arab Spring and continue to do so in the flourishing regional art scene — specifically in photography — which is alive and very well indeed. Some Middle Eastern photographers have taken their cameras to the barricades, physical ones and those less obvious, like the barriers erected by stereotypes, which they remain determined to defy. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, takes note in “She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers From Iran and the Arab World,” an ambitious and revealing exhibition of work by 12 women, some internationally known.
For the full article, please visit The New York Times.
“I needed to understand what makes us Arab women so different in the eyes of the West.” -Lalla Essaydi
For the full article please visit The Artery.
''She Who Tells a Story," at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, is unlike any contemporary art show at the moment. Bringing together photographs and videos by 12 women from Iran and the Arab countries, it introduces issues and names that will be unfamiliar to audiences in the U.S., even among the highly informed.
Opening the show is Ms. Essaydi's three-part photograph of an elegantly dressed woman lying on a bed in a tiled room. Only on close inspection is it apparent that the golden tinge of the image, with its air of luxe et volupté, comes from hundreds of metal bullet casings used to construct the mosaiclike décor. Relying on the illusion of trompe l'oeil, and poses that refer to icons of Western painting by Ingres and Klimt, she has cleverly—maybe too glibly—asked her audience to question the supposed truth of photographs.
For the full article please visit The Wall Street Journal's website.
Die marokkanische Künstlerin Lalla Essaydi bezweifelt, dass die Umwälzungen in der arabischen Welt den Frauen schon bald die Gleichberechtigung bringen werden.Download PDF (297 K)
Lalla Essaydi's photographs are multifaceted explorations of female identity in islamic culture inspired by her own personal history. Her childhood in Morocco was full of women. Her father had four wives, and her memories are of the solidarity and support between them. 'They were all our mothers. There was still jealousies and intrigues, but the solidarity between them was amazing.'Download PDF (2.1 MB)
Lalla Essaydi’s career as an artist has encompassed painting, mixed media, and video, but recently she has devoted herself to photography, and to sumptuous explorations of the image of woman in Islamic society.
Essaydi was raised in Morocco and spent many years in Saudi Arabia, and although she was educated in Europe and the United States, this experience of traditional Islamic life was fundamental in shaping her. Her first major photographic series to explore this was Converging Territories (2002-4), which depicted Islamic women and children in an unoccupied house where Essaydi was once confined for long spells as a child, whenever she was disobedient. The series which followed this, Les Femmes du Maroc (2005-7), expanded this further, exploring the charged rhetoric of veiling and revealing which surrounds Islamic women.
Essaydi’s photography provides a contemporary reflection on an iconography that stretches at least as far back as the Orientalist imagery of nineteenth century artists such as Ingres, Delacroix, and Gérôme. The women in Les Femmes du Maroc are entirely enveloped in Islamic calligraphy – writing, applied in henna, which adorns their skin, their robes, and the interiors that surround them. The text seems to entrap the women, and yet it is a form of decoration which marks some of the happiest and most significant moments of an Islamic woman’s life. More recently Essaydi has produced a series of pictures in a former harem in Morocco, often swathing her subjects in robes which closely echo the decorative tiles that wall the complex. “In my art,” Essaydi says, “I wish to present myself through multiple lenses -- as artist, as Moroccan, as Saudi, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite the viewer to resist stereotypes.”
Lalla Essaydi lives in New York. Selections from her series Les Femmes du Maroc were published by powerHouse Books in 2009. Recent exhibitions of her work have been staged at Williams College Museum, Williamstown, Mass.; and the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Her work is represented in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and many others.