An Artist in Exile – Shirin Neshat


"Diving Rebellion" 2012 Brooklyn Museum

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 installation HERE 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.

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