Freedom in Body and Water

Multimedia artist Sama Alshaibi regularly interrogates the female sort as a nexus issue for politics, histories, local climate, and pressured migrations. Her exhibition Four Series at Zane Bennett Gallery spans 15 a long time of inventive inquiry with a variety of photos from four discrete bodies of get the job done: Have Above (2019), Silsila (2009-2017), Among Two Rivers (2008-2009, 2016), and Negative’s Capable Arms (2007-2010). Every series signifies a aspect of her interrogation, drawing on historic sources, contexts, and techniques to articulate the definitions and exploitations of freedom.

Alshaibi constantly options herself as a major issue, illustrating how Western geopolitical forces, traditions, and networks undermine person liberties, especially all those of Center Jap women of all ages. Carry Around deflects the Western gaze of “Orientalist” photography in the Center East and Northern Africa. Applying albumen, photogravure, and gum printing procedures of the late 19th and early 20th hundreds of years, Alshaibi poses in symbolic garments with objects — in “Gamer” (2019), for occasion, she wears a burqa and carries a towering stack of steel tins on her head, tins usually utilized by Iraqi ladies to have buffalo product and bread.

Sama Alshaibi, “Gamer” (2019), photogravure blind embossing with transparent ink reduction rolled, 25 x 20 inches, version of 8 additionally 3 AP (courtesy Zane Bennett Gallery)

Alshaibi’s portraits are taken in a studio setting dependent on the likes of historic precedents this kind of as Maison Bonfils and Francis Frith who, capitalizing on new photographic systems, cataloged and codified a European urge for food for the Center East. Except Alshaibi’s photographs eventually rebuke codification. The extravagant proportion of the props mixed with the figure’s isolation underscores the contrived form of the custom. In “Water Bearer II” (2019), Alshaibi carries a large vessel resembling a large hand grenade or acorn. She appears to have extraordinary toughness, carrying this blanched, cumbersome, and likely useless item overhead while wearing a white dress that is so extended as to fold around her toes and prohibit her motion. The hard work depicted is to no stop help you save for manufacturing an graphic.

Sama Alshaibi, “Eternal Adore Song” (2019), photogravure blind embossing with transparent ink reduction rolled, 25 x 20 inches, edition of 8 (courtesy Zane Bennett Gallery)

Self-portraits in Concerning Two Rivers seize actual physical signals of trauma on the entire body making use of theater cosmetics. “Obverse Discursive” (2016) exhibits a shut up of the artist’s confront wearing a equipped hijab, gazing upwards and off to the right, lips sewn shut with golden thread, bloody exactly where it appears to penetrate the pores and skin. In one more photo, “Arabic and Cuneiform: to browse and write” (2016), bruised and branded arms increase more than crumpled, luxuriously purple cloth, fingers cupped as nevertheless requesting alms from the camera. The arm’s branded cuneiform marks are bloody, suggesting a traumatic dislocation from language and background as nevertheless they experienced to be inscribed on the physique for safekeeping. 

In an affiliated artist statement, Alshaibi — who had to flee Iraq developing up — describes photos in Among Two Rivers as a reaction to the Iraq war. She argues that the concept of women’s liberty was leveraged by Western powers to gain aid for the invasion. Photographs in this series illustrate the adverse outcomes the conflict experienced on females in individual.

Sama Alshaibi, “Obverse Discursive” from Between Two Rivers (2017), electronic archival print, 20 x 16 inches, edition of 5 (courtesy Zane Bennett Gallery)

The strongest operate in the show arrives from the 7-12 months multimedia venture Silsila for which the artist loosely followed the route of a 14th-century Moroccan traveler, Ibn Battuta. Battuta traveled far more than any other explorer in premodern background, the revealed account of which seems in his e book A Reward to People Who Ponder the Wonders of Metropolitan areas and the Marvels of Travelling, or else known as The Rihla. Encouraged by his route, Alshaibi focused on the extremes of h2o, notably the varied and regional populations of persons facing ecological displacement. 

The sequence links individuals communities, inspecting how rising tides envisioned to swallow the Maldives or Hawai’ian Islands are reciprocally related to droughts befalling Middle Eastern and North African deserts. Works exhibited from this sequence include things like draped figures, often mirrored in h2o, and regularly connected with circles.

In “Tasma’ (Pay attention)” (2014), a figure kneels on the floor in a eco-friendly burqa, palms on her knees in the heart of a circle of stones in the center of a receding desert. The circular composition is recurring in other will work like “Ma Ijtama’at Aydina ‘ala Qabdih Mu’attal (What Our Palms Joined Was Damaged)” (2014) in which two rows of identical figures experience a single yet another with arms outstretched. Internal pairs shake fingers although outer pairs are unable to bridge the distance with human get hold of. Clouds punctuate the blue sky overhead, reiterating a kaleidoscopic top quality. All through the series, the mirroring capacity of drinking water collapses the sky and ground.

Sama Alshaibi, “Sabkhat al-Milh (Salt Flats)” (2014), digital archival print, 19 1/2 x 16 inches (courtesy Zane Bennett Gallery)

Each of Alshaibi’s sequence highlights how personal company, specially that of Center Japanese and North African females, is subject matter to geopolitical and financial forces that ruin the surroundings. The induce of displacement is diversified — war, climate transform and capitalism, colonialism — however they every single create inhospitable environments that undermine the liberties each routine paradoxically statements to champion. What is remarkable about figures in Silsila is the motion they nonetheless have, carrying and donning billowing fabrics, poised in motion, in dialogue with the modifying landscape. 

4 Collection proceeds at Zane Bennett Gallery (​​435 S Guadalupe Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico) through April 16, 2022.