While the events of 9/11 may have changed how Americans perceive Muslim women who wear hijabs, the traveling art exhibition, “The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces,” the newest exhibit at Ithaca College’s Handwerker Gallery, tackles the controversial issue head on.
The exhibit, curated by Jennifer Heath, an arts journalist and critic, and the founder of “The Arts Paper: A Cultural Journal of the Boulder Arts Commission,” is a collection of 32 works and artists in an assortment of media forms — ranging from short film and documentary to sculpture and inkjet prints.
Iranian artist Yassi Golshani’s “The Women” features a wall of more than 180 papier-mâché mummies wrapped from Iranian French newsprint. Each figurine is uniquely designed, but the collection of women, dressed in similar black garbs with white palms signaling the universal hand stop sign, present a sense of sadness and foreboding. The stiffness of the papier-mâché coffins and the women’s range of peaceful and pained expressions further Golshani’s agenda to open social dialogue about the religious and sexual persecution of these Iranian women wearing chadors.
Other works follow a similar narrative arch. Helen Zughab’s six 26-by-21 inch inkjet prints titled “Secrets Under the ‘Abaya’” portray a woman under the veil. The works contain strong influences from Picasso and Mondrian, artists known for respectively launching the cubism and De Stijl movements. The abstract prints are arranged on the wall like a comic strip with the last one revealing a woman with long-flowing blond hair and pink eyes welling up in tears while delivering the punch line in a comment bubble: “I am not what you think I am!”
Despite presidential candidate Mitt Romney infamously misogynistic comment on possessing a “binder full of women” during one of the 2012 presidential debates, the works in the Handwerker Gallery exhibit reclaim female power. “Yad Chava,” Jo-Ann Brody’s clay tablets bound by steel rings, is a literal “binder full of women,” but these women rise up beyond the tablet’s clay pages that contain them. “Yad Chava,” a fitting name for Brody’s piece, translates to both “hand” and “memorial” in Hebrew. Her autobiographical work is a memorial of powerful women in her family rising up. Meanwhile, Aphrodite Desiree Navab’s seven 21-by-16 inch inkjet prints, “Super East-West Woman,” champion the power of the veil, which also acts as a surrogate Superwoman cape. The series of prints depict a woman wearing Clark Kent’s signature “S” symbol under a long, blue veil.
Either by providing awareness or empowering women, “The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces” lifts the veil masking the Muslim-American identity.
“The Veil: Visible and Invisible Spaces” exhibit is open in the Handwerker Gallery from January 24, 2013 to March 8, 2013.