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March 02, 2003

Art by nine Muslim women featured in poignant, powerful show

A brief art show review looks at art by 9 Muslim women. How these artists lived before coming to America is a sad commentary upon the lives of women in Muslim countries.
In the United States since the Sept. 11 tragedy, images of Muslim women have largely been shaped by news stories by or about outsiders -- photographers, journalists, politicians, aid workers. Their accounts of girls banned from schools and women beaten for not wearing veils have validity, but they pale before the extraordinarily complex stories that Muslim women tell.

"Sheherazade: Risking the Passage" is a remarkable show in which nine contemporary Muslim women reflect on their personal experiences, culture, religion and current events. Their paintings, photos, installations and sculpture offer a deftly nuanced portrait of lives infused with contemporary aspirations but profoundly circumscribed by faith and tradition.

All of the women now live in the United States but were born and raised -- or lived for extended periods -- in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kenya or Lebanon. Islam manifests itself differently in each of these countries, variations that have imprinted the women and their art.

Without being confessional or intrusively intimate, the art in "Sheherazade" exudes an intense, personal vulnerability. These are obviously thoughtful, accomplished women whose feminist longings are universal. The subtle beauty of their art, and their skillful blending of tradition and modernity, reinforce the sincerity of their questioning.[more]