Lafayette College Art Galleries presents “Lalla Essaydi: Photographs,” an exhibition of seven large photographs from her best known series through April 11 at the Williams Center Gallery located at the Williams Center for the Arts, 317 Hamilton Street, Easton, Pa. Essaydi will present a public lecture, “Gender, Power, and Tradition,” on Wednesday, February 28, 4:10 p.m. in the Oechsle Hall Auditorium (Oechsle Hall is located on Hamilton Street across from the Williams Center for the Arts.) A reception for the artist will take place at the William Center Gallery directly following the talk.
The exhibition and related programs are free and open to the public.
Lalla Essaydi’s explorations of the image of woman in Muslim society address the complex reality of Arab female identity from the unique perspective of personal experience. As a Muslim woman (b. 1956, Marrakesh) who grew up in Morocco, raised her family in Saudi Arabia, and relocated to France and finally the United States, the artist has profound firsthand perspectives into cross-cultural identity politics.
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 Muslim women. “Harem” and “Harem Revisited” presents women in a number of closed interior spaces within the walls of former harems. In “Bullets” and “Bullets Revisited” the artist constructs backdrops, floors, and clothing from cut bullet casings, creating works combining beauty and menace. In all of the photographs, the women are entirely enveloped in Arabic 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 a Muslim 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 traditionalist, as liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite the viewer to resist stereotypes.”
A fully illustrated catalogue with essay by Valerie Behiery is available. Behiery writes, “…Lalla Essaydi’s meticulously planned photographs leave nothing to happenstance. Often requiring months of preparation, they deliberately foster multilayeredness and ambiguity of form and meaning. By reflecting the uncertain location of polycultural subjects, they create new spaces that defy present-day categorizations of and in East and West.”
A concurrent exhibition of Lalla Essaydi’s photographs can be seen at the Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, through May 12. The exhibition catalogue, produced by the Trout Gallery, includes images of the works at both locations.
The photographs are “© Lalla Essaydi / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York?”
Lalla Essaydi is presented in conjunction with Tapestries: Voices Within Contemporary Muslim Cultures, a Lafayette College initiative that features programs throughout campus that focus on arts and culture with roots in Muslim-majority regions of the world. Tapestries is made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP), Building Bridges: Arts, Culture, and Identity, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Lalla Essaydi’s residency is also supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; by Lafayette College programs and departments including Anthropology and Sociology, History, Women and Gender Studies, and Africana Studies; and by the Department of Art’s Grossman Visiting Artist series and the Lafayette Art Galleries.
Lafayette is located in Easton, Pennsylvania, on the scenic Delaware River, 72 miles from New York City, and 60 miles from Philadelphia. For more information and gallery hours, visit the art galleries’ website: galleries.lafayette.edu.
Easton is served by Trans-Bridge Lines, a commuter bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.
For more information, contact: Michiko Okaya, director of art galleries, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jennifer Philburn, email@example.com; visit galleries.lafayette.edu or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
All gallery lectures and exhibitions are free and open to the public. They are sponsored by Lafayette Art Galleries.
Lafayette College Art Galleries and EPI receive state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
above:: Converging Territories #22, 2004, triptych, chromogenic prints mounted to aluminum, “© Lalla Essaydi / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York?”
Left: Converging Territories #30, 2004, Chromogenic print mounted to aluminum, printed 2012, “© Lalla Essaydi / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York?”
Center: Converging Territories #24, 2004, Four chromogenic prints mounted to aluminum, “© Lalla Essaydi / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York?”
Right: Harem #2, 2009, Chromogenic print mounted to aluminum with a UV protective laminate, 30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm). “© Lalla Essaydi / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York?”