Art is informative. Sometimes
more so than reading an article
in a newspaper or watching a news
feed on TV.
I came upon Shirin Neshat
unexpectedly and as I started
to read more about her I realized
I was getting a deeper perspective
on an important part of our world
and US history. It became personal
for me. I suppose on some level that's
because I started to identify with exile
and oppression as well as being
misunderstood,judged and in need of
voice as a woman.
Shirin Neshat was born in Iran in 1957.
Her father, who admired western influence
always wanted his children to have
education and opportunity. In 1975
Shirin left Iran to attend art school
at UC Berkeley just before the Iranian
revolution. She spent the next 13 years
unable return home and witnessed from a
distance the radical change and
disruption of her native land.
"Dear Sophie" 1996
During that time Neshat completed her
studies and put her art on hold to
a degree. She married, became a mother
and moved to New York. Her husband at
the time Kyong Park founded the Storefront
for Art and Architecture where projects
relating to politics, architecture and
art were fostered.
It wasn't until 1990 that Shirin returned
to her country and experienced first hand
the radical changes from the place
she remembered. Neshat witnessed women
being required to wear chadors as well
as men and women no longer having
the freedom to mingle together.
This experience had a profound impact
on Neshat and influenced her work upon
her return to the US.
Instead of picking up with painting,
the medium she studied at Berkley,
Neshat started to work in photography.
"I am its secret" 1993
Some of her earlier photographs
are self portraits of her in a chador.
The exposed body parts she
covered in text of poetry written
by Iranian women. The verse spoke openly
about what women were feeling. Hands as
you see in the photo above were
another part of the body used
in her photography. Equally covered
with provocative text that gave voice
to the inner workings of women.
Later work moved into the realm of
video. I've added "Turbulent" a
video installation which gives a
perspective on the different worlds
that exist for men and for women in
Iranian society. You can read more
about the background of this
It seems exile has actually
provided an opportunity for increased
voice - and been the antithesis of what
that act hopes to accomplish.
There's so much more to read about
Shirin Neshat, her bodies of work
and her poignant message as she
expresses it through these mediums.