Lalla Essaydi | Falk Visiting Artist

Jan 20, 2024
- May 24, 2024
SPACE FOR ENGAGEMENT SPRING 2024 - 1st Floor: The Leah Louise B. Tannenbaum Gallery

Lalla Essaydi, Les Femmes du Maroc #1, 2005. Chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York. © Lalla Essaydi

Artist Lalla Essaydi grew up in Morocco, studied in France, raised her children in Saudi Arabia, and now lives in the United States. Her art draws upon these varied cultural contexts and personal experiences to address the complex realities of contemporary Arab female lives.

Essaydi often returns to the domestic spaces of her Moroccan girlhood, looking back on them as an adult woman caught somewhere between past and present. She also explores art history, and especially the 19th-century European and American painting tradition known as Orientalism, which produced fantasized images of Middle Eastern and North African locations and people. This exhibition features work from three of Essaydi’s compelling photographic series in which she grapples with Orientalism and the ways it contributed to misconceptions about Arab women, as well as what it means today.

In each of her images, Essaydi stages female subjects in carefully selected environments including her family home in Morocco, her Boston studio, and a historic Moroccan palace. The women’s poses reference those of the imagined figures in Orientalist paintings while at the same time claiming their own space in the present. Essaydi covers the figures in Arabic calligraphy, which is associated with men, but applies it with henna, which is associated with women. Through these carefully constructed layerings of past and present, East and West, male and female, she encourages us to disrupt singular interpretations of people or history and instead seek more complicated understandings.

This exhibition is organized by Dr. Emily Stamey, Elizabeth McIver Weatherspoon Curator of Academic Programming and Head of Exhibitions. It is presented in partnership with UNC Greensboro’s Falk Visiting Artist Program in the School of Art.