Islamic photographer Shadi Ghadirian

Islamic art defined

Art historians coined the term Islamic art to broadly classify all art forms created in places where Islam was the prevalent religion of the land or those in power or by Muslim artisans.

Islamic art encompasses a time period of more than 1,300 years and a vast span of geography. Some museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, eschew the terminology Islamic art in favor of “Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia,” because it recognizes the unique cultures and regional styles of art.

Arabic language, either as poetry or calligraphy is a defining theme in Islamic art. The  Qur’an, is the holy scriptures for the Muslim faith, which was received by Muhammad from Allah (God) during his visions. Poetry or Quranic verses, exquisitely executed in calligraphy, are common in various artists motifs like architecture, to ceramics and tapestries.

Shadi Ghadirian (Iran, born 1974)

“My pictures became a mirror reflecting how I felt: we are stuck between tradition and modernity.”


After perusing Islamic art, I discovered Shadi Ghadirian’s work on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). I was drawn to how she uses photography to express her identity as a woman and an Iranian. Her Qajar Series contrasts modern objects like a soda can or boom box with women dressed in a 19th century black chador using photography. The series shows the duality of women caught between the demands of tradition and the modern world.

Ghadirian lives and works in Iran. She earned a bachelor’s degree in photography from Tehran’s Azad University. Her art expresses the status of women, religion and modernity in Iran while continuing to questioning the status of women throughout the world. Her work is part of the permanent collection of LACMA and displayed at other museums throughout the states and Europe. She has also been featured in the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and the BBC.


Untitled from the Like Everyday Series, 2000-2001,  C-print, 183 x 183 cm on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London

I included this piece because it’s description on the gallery’s website disturbed me. “A shrouded broom huddles with timid demureness, her form most associated with ‘doormat’; beneath her veil, however, the broom handle stands in for a sturdy backbone. With her countenance made up of a straw besom, her expression appears wizened and worn, indicating time honoured knowledge and the tenacity and temper of a charwoman.”

Its certainly elegant in its simplicity, a broom wrapped in a piece of cloth. Yet it packs a powerful punch: a woman who is seen as a doormat, who sucks up whatever bullshit the men and religion that control her, while still having underneath it all a backbone.  Just brilliant!

20091127124226_shadi_ghadirian_qajar_ghetto_blasterUntitled from the Ghajar Series, 1998-1999, C-print, 213 x 152 cm on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London

This is my favorite. Its certainly a brilliant contrast to the previous image of the broom doormat. Just as the broom is subservient, this image is in your face powerful. I love how the model stands with her hands on her hips like she is in control. The gallery description is perfect:  “defiant in her gangsta posturing and holding a ridiculously large ghetto-blaster.”





Untitled from the Ghajar Series, 1998-1999, C-print, 213 x 152 cm on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London


I loved the contrast of this photo, which is why its included. Menial housework like vacuuming set against an opulent setting. It seems like the model is possibly the woman of the home because she is wearing nice clothing but she is relegated to household chores. I love the Ghajar Series because it clearly illustrates the juxtaposition between stringent Islamic law and the permissiveness of the modern world all while pointing out that despite everything, too many women around the world are still dependent on men in one way or another





To round out my gallery, I include a slideshow of Ghadirian’s work set to Arabic music.

Works Cited

ForLOVEoftheARTS. “SHADI GHADIRIAN – Remarkable Photographer.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 July 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <;.

Komaroff, Linda, PhD. “The Islamic Art Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA.” The Islamic Art Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA. Los Angeles County Museum of Ar, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <;.

Macaulay-Lewis, Dr. Elizabeth. “Khan Academy.” Khan Academy. Khan Academy, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. <;.

“Metropolitan Museum to Open Renovated Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South AsiaOpened: November 1, 2011.” Metropolitan Museum to Open Renovated Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South AsiaOpened: November 1, 2011. Metropolitan Museum, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <;.

“Shadi Ghadirian.” – Artist’s Profile. Saatchi Gallery, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <;.

“Shadi Ghadirian.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. <;.


Postmodern art: anything goes

Postmodern art defined

Postmodern art broadly defines art created after 1975. It’s an era that evolved with technology top include multimedia and computer-based technology. Postmodernism is not so much about genre like painting or sculpture as is it’s about attitude. An anything goes attitude that rejects traditional values and the rigidity of previous decades.

The last four decades have changed the definition of art. Now art can be made from anything. For postmodern artists, trash is treasure. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) pioneered junk art, which used trash and other found objects out of context to make art. He was an artist before his time paving the way for junk art that made art more accessible to everyday people because art was made from everyday objects.

Just as artists of other eras have patrons, postmodernism owes a debt of gratitude to Charles Saatchi, an Iraqi-born United Kingdom business man and philanthropist who funding of the Young British Artists financially paved the way for London to be the epicenter of postmodern art in Europe. His Saatchi Gallery has become one of the most renowned centers for avant-garde art.

Tracey Emin (b.1963)


British multimedia artist Tracey Emin is as well known for her art as the controversy she stirs up. She first appeared in the late 1980s as a member of the Young British Arts Movement. She’s one of Brittan’s leading postmodern artists earning a coveted place as an academician to the Royal Academy in London in 2007. She has exhibited her work throughout the United Kingdom, Los Angeles, Spain and Switzerland. Her pieces are known for their raw autobiographical quality. She freely shares her humiliations, failures and successes in her art.

In 1999, she was a finalist for the Turner Prize for contemporary art. The piece was literally her bed, in all its sweat-stained and chaotic glory, accented by discarded condoms and her own blood-stained underwear. Her unmade bed showcased suicidal feelings following a tumultuous love relationship ended. Despite a prolific body of work including printmaking, photography, sculpture, films, painting and installations, My Bed is her most famous piece.

My Bed 1998 Mattress, linens, pillows and objects 79 x 211 x 234 cm    31 x 83 x 92″ Exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in London

Mey bed

We have all been there. Failed love affairs that drive us to the edge of a nervous breakdown. Consumed by heartache, how many of our own beds have looked like Emin’s My Bed? I love this piece for its gut-wrenching honesty. The empty vodka bottles that you know she chugged straight from the body. The crusty, blood-stained panties that explain that she was so distraught she couldn’t drag herself out of bed for a tampon. The stuffed dog adds a whimsical touch that shows her vulnerability. I love this piece. Its raw, honest and totally relate able.

I included My Bed in this gallery because it illustrates the postmodern era’s anything goes definition of art. When you think of art it’s a painting or a sculpture. How many of us think of our unmade bed as art? Emin courageously puts herself out there.

Tracey Emin’s I’ve Got It All (2000)  48.8 x 42.9 in. Photographs, Ink-jet print at Saatchi Gallery, London


I like this piece. I included it because it shows the connection to sexuality and money. Of all the ways she could have photographed herself, she chose legs splayed. Its a very provocative and sexual pose. What strikes me most about this image is how Emin is scooping up money into her crotch. Its like she credits her sexuality for her power or maybe her sexuality connects her to the artistic inspiration that makes her money. It could also intertwine money and sexual desire. The self-portrait was created at a time when she was a successful financially and in the public eye. I included it because it was different. It shows the savage connection between sexuality, art and money.


I Can’t Let Go (2007) Textiles, embroidered cotton 13.31 x 12.19 in at Saatchi Gallery, London


I included I Can’t Let Go because it was embroidery. The frayed edges communicate to me someone who is going to unravel from yearning for someone they love. The woman’s legs are splayed like she is waiting for her lover. Her arms are outstretched like she is reaching out for him. I chose this piece to round out the collection. Emin’s pieces are so honest and in your face. Emin’s art communicates what everyone is thinking but no one wants to say.

Erika Iris Simmons aka Erika iri5

A self-taught artist, Erika Iris Simmons aka Erika iri5 (pronounced “iris”) transforms antiquated technology like cassette and VHS tapes into art. She is especially known for her portraits of musicians and actors like Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and Jim Morrison. Her inspiration comes from artists like Vik Muniz and Ken Knowlton, “making beautiful portraits out of weird stuff” (Mannino). “I knew that being an artist is not what you have, it’s how you use it, and so I just went from there,” Simmons said in an interview with Woman’s Day.

She started her art working at her kitchen table and posting images on her account. She had no connections to galleries or the art world. Her innovative use of discarded technology attracted attention. She was the official artist for the 2013 Grammy Awards. Here client roster includes: Oprah Magazine, MAXIM, Levis Strauss & Co., Hermes, Showtime, and RayBan. She lives in Chicago.

When researching her art, I could not find any indication of a gallery so I was not able to include that information.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience


“The Jimi Hendrix Experience” was made from three Hendrix cassette tapes for a private art collector. I like this piece. I think the detail is incredible. The detail on the jacket is made from white space. I included it because it was so intricate and amazing. I especially like how she includes the cassette tapes at the edge of the portrait.

John Lennon


John Lennon was commissioned by London’s The Times newspaper as an illustration to go with a piece about the musician. I think its incredible. There is less detail than “The Jimi Hendrix Experience,” but its amazing in its simplicity. I like this piece because it illustrates that contrasting white space is as important as the cassette tape.

Bettie Page


Finally! An Erika iri5 piece headed for a museum. “This is my favorite film piece that I’ve completed because of the very intricate leopard print,” Simmons told Woman’s Day. The piece took a couple weeks to make using  donated 16mm film. The piece was   drafted into the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! collection, however, the Woman’s Day says its awaiting museum placement.

This is my favorite. I love how she used the tape to create a saucy, seductive expression on the pinup icon’s face. If prints were available, this is one I would purchase.

Works Cited

Anderson, Chris. “15 Amazing Pieces of Tape Art by Erika Iris Simmons.” Design Shifts. Design Shifts, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <;.
Area Visual. “Erika Iris Simmons. Never Hide Noise Logo (Making Of).” YouTube. Youtube, 2 Dec. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <;.
Collins, Neil, MA LLB. “Charles Saatchi (b.1943).” Charles Saatchi: Contemporary Art Collector: Damien Hirst. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <;.
Collins, Neil, MA LLB. “Postmodernist Art Definition, Characteristics, History.” Postmodernist Art: Definition, Characteristics, History. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <;.
Collins, Neil, MA LLB. “Tracey Emin (b.1963).” Tracey Emin: Installation Artist, Postmodernist Painter. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2016. <;.
Datacube. “Cassette TAPE INSTALLATION as an Unusual Form of Modern Art.” YouTube. YouTube, 27 Sept. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <;.
Iri5, Erika. “The Artist.” The Modern Art of Erika Iris. Erika Iri5, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <;.
Mannino, Brynn. “11 Cassette and Film Tape Artworks.” Woman’s Day. Hearst Communications, 14 Jan. 2010. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. <;.
“Tracey Emin.” Emin- Artist’s Profile. Saatchi Gallery, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <;.
“TRACEY EMIN.” TRACEY EMIN. Kismet Girls Trust, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <;.