Lalla Essaydi


February 9–May 12

Artist Reception / Lecture: March 1, 5:00–7:30PM

Lalla Essaydi’s career as an artist has encompassed painting, mixed media, and video, but recently she has devoted herself to photography, and to explorations of the image of woman in Islamic society. Essaydi was raised in Morocco, spent many years in Saudi Arabia, and educated in Europe and the United States.

This exhibition draws from a number of projects. "Converging Territories" depicts Islamic women and children in an unoccupied house where Essaydi was once confined for long spells as a child, whenever she was disobedient. "Les Femmes du Maroc" explores the charged rhetoric of veiling and revealing which surrounds Islamic women. "Harem" presents women in a number of closed interior spaces within the walls of former harems.  In all of the photographs, the women 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.

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. “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's work courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

COORDINATED EXHIBITION: Lalla Essaydi's work is featured in a coordinated exhibition hosted by the Art Galleries of Lafayette College. February 3–April 7, 2018.

CATALOGUE: With essay by Valerie Behiery.