Art & PhotographyThe Arts

The Woman Of 1,000 Faces: Making Art “From A Place Of Adoration”

What do you get when you cross a psychoanalyst, an archaeologist, and a Japanese animator? Something like the work of Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri, who turns the collective unconscious of Middle Eastern and Gulf culture inside-out by transforming its traditions, from sad ballads to beards, into performance art.

What’s behind your focus on masculinity?

Growing up we were three girls, so for me being a man is something exotic. In my work, all these unconscious images from my childhood come back. But I really don’t see gender as black and white. It’s a practice, a ritual–so for me it’s a question: I love masculine things and I don’t know why. It comes from a place of adoration. I really don’t know why; that’s why I keep making these works.

What about your use of religious images?

Religion is also seen in this very black and white sense, but I think it’s multifaceted and has a lot of beautiful cultural aspects. This is why I say the Muhawwil project is not critical, because the images look naïve but they’re conveying ancient messages. This is a new trend in Islam that uses figurative art for the first time, so with Muhawwil I thought, I have to document this. I was really nervous about showing it because I’d never done anything that religious, but everyone took it in her or his own way and had a different reaction. So I think it’s better not to impose what I think.

Do you see yourself as an archivist of culture?

I am a bit of an introvert, but I’m trying to express things that are beyond just me. A lot of artists here fall into the trap of thinking that to be a contemporary artist you can’t go outside of yourself, but that doesn’t interest me; I include different issues in my work.

For more info – www.moniraalqadiri.com/

From "Anachronistic Fantastic", 2013. Photo Credit: Monira Al Qadiri
From “Anachronistic Fantastic”, 2013. Photo Credit: Monira Al Qadiri
From "Muhawwil", 2014. Photo Credit: Monira Al Qadiri
From “Muhawwil”, 2014. Photo Credit: Monira Al Qadiri
From "Muhawwil", 2014. Photo Credit: Monira Al Qadiri
From “Muhawwil”, 2014. Photo Credit: Monira Al Qadiri


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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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