Posts tagged Female Art
Nadia Waheed: Wearing Your Braid as a Badge
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Wearing Your Braid as a Badge: Challenging Expectations and Finding Your Place

By Christina Nafziger

Through the female body and cultural iconography, Nadia Waheed’s paintings explore dichotomies present in her own life as well as those that affect the female experience, one that forces women to navigate through the unrealistic, and often contradictory, expectations from others. Originally from Pakistan, and now based in Austin, Texas, the artist has lives all over the world, with her artistic practice being the space where she can claim agency and be her true self, away from judgment. The blue, pink, and orange women in her paintings often sport henna on their skin and long braids, both strong and beautiful, nodding at her cultural roots. Recently represented by the London-based gallery BEERS, Waheed shares honest advice on how to stay focused on what is truly important as an artist. Join me as Waheed opens up about her struggles overcoming personal obstacles, and discusses the challenge of balancing the two sides of East and West in her work and life. 

www.nadiawaheed.com

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Have you always considered yourself an artist? When did you first feel like you had found your voice artist voice? 

I haven’t always considered myself an artist, actually. I hold that word and title in very high regard and I don’t think that everyone who makes “art” is an artist. Artist to me implies a very high level of commitment to a certain type of work and practice. Mentally, it is not a “part time” relationship; the thinking about the work becomes something that’s always there, processing in the background of everything you do. It’s everything. I wasn’t comfortable calling myself an artist until I realized that this really was my only purpose in life. I could’ve taken another route after graduating with my BFA, but I felt so empty without my work, it was a clear sign that making paintings is an inherent part of my identity and that I could never be a functional version of myself without it. 

I grew up drawing and that was my primary method for communicating myself artistically. When I moved to paint in 2013, I didn’t at all have the same fluidity or finesse as I did with line. I believe I found my artistic voice many years ago when I was young, but it’s been a years long process of honing it. When my mentor Kevin Wolff passed away in early 2018, his death rattled and pushed me to the brink emotionally—it was like a rebirth. I lost my apprehension and stopped thinking about painting and just did it. Everything clicked into place and this body of work is what came out; Blue Portrait (Sisyphus’s Boulder) is the painting that started it all.

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Originally from Pakistan (born in Saudi, but from Karachi), how has your cultural background affected your artistic practice? Are there aspects of your work that are influenced by cultural elements or iconography?

I think it’s affected everything - it has always been something that I’ve responded to. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere, so my sketchbook was always my sanctuary. I could be my unadulterated myself, outside the sphere of judgment from Western or Eastern culture. My practice was born from a need to belong and be understood as myself, and my studio became the space for me to do it. I am heavily influenced by the styles and themes I see back in Pakistan, and am so in love with miniature painting and Islamic architecture, but I only draw from the pieces that feel mine. The things that I’m most excited by, or scared of, are the things that you’ll see in my paintings. The weight that I see carried by women, the different weight of expectation that I see carried by others and myself. Iconography aside, I’m interested in the social dynamics of the East and West - what’s “societally appropriate,” primarily in regards to the development of young women. The difference is incredible, and balancing the two has been a challenge for me. 

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There seems to be an emphasis on hair, specifically on the braid, in your work. Can you speak a bit to this?

The braid has become a metaphor for so many things. Connection, worth, beauty, vulnerability... but maybe the simplest answer would begin with me saying that I wore a long braid similar to the women in my paintings for many years. I felt it was a tangible connection to my culture, a badge I could wear that said, “This is where I come from.” Long braids are symbols of traditional beauty in Pakistan and I pay homage to that tradition in my paintings. It’s a heavily layered symbol, a liberation and simultaneously a huge weight. It can be your pride and your greatest vulnerability; the interdependence of opposites is something I think about all the time. My grandmother’s nurse in Karachi has an incredibly long braid, down to the back of her thighs. She says she keeps her hair wound away and hidden when she’s in public because she’s afraid that her hair is going to be cut off by a jealous woman or a man who thinks she’s being shameless about her appearance. She says it’s happened before to others. I don’t think I’ve fully unpacked it, but to me, the braid says, “I’m trying to be a good Pakistani girl.” It’s totally contradicted by the nudity, but that’s my point - we can have both and still be good.  

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Can you tell me about the presence of the female in your work? Are the scenes in your paintings allegories or are they perhaps reflections on your own thoughts or experiences?

I’d say a combination of both. I love women. I love men too (I love all humans!) but I’m amazed by women every day. So much is put onto us, and for generations women have persevered, raised families under constant abuse, broken countless glass ceilings and fought for respect in society and from our male counterparts. In my paintings, all my imagery is very personal; a lot of it is a surrendering, the resignation and the waving of a white flag. Someone looked at my paintings and said that none of my figures were empowered, that this work doesn’t empower women. I still grapple with that today, but I don’t disagree. Some of these figures are not empowered. It’s because sometimes I don’t feel empowered. There is an idea of “conditional” love that I see everywhere in my world which panics me - why is our worth and value as an entity dependent on our appearance or our paycheck or our marital status? I paint women because I am a woman, and mitigating the endless layers of complexity surrounding femininity and vulnerability and whatever ideas are thrust onto us, hoops we need to jump through to be given “worth”... these are all questions I’m painting through. At this point I have no definitive answers, rather I’m more interested in the question and the idea.

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Congratulations on your gallery recent representation with BEERS London! Do you have any advice for artists seeking gallery representation?

Thank you! It was an incredibly serendipitous occurrence and I couldn’t be happier about it, BEERS has been one of my all time favorite galleries for years and I’m so thrilled to join the team. 

Advice wise, there is only one thing that matters: making a good painting. We all know it’s a very difficult thing to do, so that honestly should be the only thing on your radar. If you try to curate your authentic voice towards a particular gallery or type of gallery, you are doing yourself and your work a massive disservice. The only thing an artist needs to be doing is making the work the best and most authentically that they conceivably can. There is no timeline. There is no falling behind. The only thing that matters is the quality of the work. If you can proudly stand next to your art and say, “This is me, this is mine,” then that’s all that matters. Everything else will come. Any young artists out there who are feeling anxiety, take charge and tell yourself this, “as long as it’s not impossible to do, it can be done”. Even a 1% chance is still a chance. Commitment is key.

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Do you listen to anything (podcasts, music, etc.) while you paint?

I used to listen to music when I worked, but I’ve switched to NPR and podcasts in October 2018. I’ve placed really stringent restrictions on the music I listen to because I’m just so overwhelmed by it now. Commercials make my heart race and make me cry, any music that’s too emotive takes me too deep inside myself and my vision warps. It’s almost funny how strongly I react to it! Pretty much the only music I can tolerate without weeping is lo-fi hiphop, very calm music with few words, and nothing too emotionally charged. I’ve become a really big fan of On Point and Fresh Air on NPR, and the podcasts Philosophize This! by Stephen West and Making Sense (formerly Waking Up) by Sam Harris, and also, The Adam Buxton Podcast. I highly recommend all three of those. I deal primarily in ideas, so these are great podcasts that explore a particular idea or person in each episode, a deep dive into the nuances of a certain topic. Nothing in this world is black and white; I love being exposed to shades of grey I hadn’t thought of before. 

Can you tell me about a time where you had to overcome an obstacle, either in your art career or during your painting process? 

Things in my personal life during 2018 overwhelmed me to the point that, at the tail end of the year, being alone with myself in the studio became dangerous. I prefer working without natural light so that I don’t see the passage of time and I can just get lost in the flow of the work, but things in my life were happening one after the other and I was drowning. Going into my studio and being alone in a windowless room for 10 -14 hours a day was so isolating. My studio was slowly becoming this echo chamber for all my terrifying thoughts and feelings: of failure, of worthlessness, of hopelessness - but I couldn’t stop working. More than being alone with myself, I was afraid of not painting, I couldn’t stop. If I stopped I was afraid that one day would become two, that two would become three, and that I’d wake up one day and it had been a year and I hadn’t painted. Even thinking about it now is terrifying. My practice is about communing with myself and my deepest thoughts about different ideas, if my mind is full of fear and anxiety, it becomes intensely amplified in the studio. Learning how to mitigate the part of me that is compelled to paint and the part of me that was terrified of being alone with myself is something I consider to be one of my biggest accomplishments.

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Do you have anything coming up this year that you’d like to share?

At this point in time nothing in particular besides a group show in Toronto and my two-person show in May with BEERS! I’m very excited to make a whole new body of work for that show and to see what comes out. I’ve got some really good ideas rattling around in my noggin and while they’re very labor intensive I think they’re going to look super good. If you want to keep up with my work or get more insight into my process, feel free to follow me on Instagram at @nadiakwd.

(And thanks so much for reading!)

Monumentalization of the Human Form: Interview with Lauren Carly Shaw

Interview by Sarah Mills

Lauren Carly Shaw (American, b.1986) is an artist currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Primarily working with sculpture, Shaw utilizes various mediums such as synthetic hair and glass to represent the female human body. Her work has been exhibited internationally, in Barcelona, New York, San Francisco, and New Jersey. She has had solo exhibitions at The Active Space, Brooklyn, NY (2013) and as a 2014 Sunroom Project Space Artist in the Glyndor Gallery at Wave Hill in the Bronx, NY (2014). Shaw has participated in residency and intensive programs across the world most recently at the Vermont Studio Center, Starry Night AIR program, and Metafora, in Barcelona, Spain. She received a BFA in sculpture from the School of Visual Arts 2009 and an MFA focusing on New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2016. 

Statement

My work investigates the nature of the human form and the monumentalization of the individual. I compose sculptures and installations in order to fully consider the body as an object. Surreal and imagined elements within the works and throughout the spaces they occupy create illusions and perceptual shifts in the way we view our own bodies. This abject and bizarre universe allows a disassociation from a pre-constructed reality, Anatomy, and emotion.

I create anthropomorphic forms to explore facets of feminism and historical unconscious. The surfaces of these fictionalized realities are representations of the thoughts, feelings, and psychology of our bodies. While alluding to a loose narrative the figures, cast replications, or prosthesis become equivocal while simultaneously paying particular attention to the uncanny nature of their human likeness. Seemingly floating, climbing up walls and floors, confronting the viewer, or interacting through digital media the objects appear to exist in an abject and bizarre alternate universe somewhere between birth and collapse.

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When did you become interested in sculpture and the human form as a subject in your work?

I have always been interested in sculpture and the human form. I started making sculptural work while an undergrad at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. I was studying graphic design and took a 3D class as part of the requirements for that program. It became quickly apparent to me that I was not interested in working strictly digitally and needed to get my hands dirty. The human body has always been my main subject of investigation as I am interested in the disconnect that happens when a human form becomes an object. When presenting a sculpture that is objectively human in its physical properties, I aim to challenge the idea of what makes a person human. Is our notion of being human tied innately to the physicality of our forms? How are these objects given intelligibility with the viewers own unique experiences?

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In your statement you talk about your use of synthetic materials and how they act as a channel for your viewer to challenge their own form, when and how did your interest in that idea begin?

I started using synthetic hair for the series Hairy Ladies as a way to further remove the sculpture from its ties to the human body. I wanted to infuse a figurative sculpture with a sense of the uncanny. I liked the idea of using something that isn’t actually from the human body but speaks to its presence. Albeit superficial, this abject element adds a life-like quality to the figures. The use of fake hair also references beauty standards, vanity and the extreme lengths people go to in order to make themselves beautiful in accordance with societal standards. These works are an exaggeration of that in some aspect. Additionally, there are a number of beauty stores in the neighborhood I live in and after walking by them a number of times I became interested in this culture of exaggerated vanity.

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How does your process change when creating instillation-based work verse small sculptures or drawings?

Installation based work takes a lot more planning and time to flesh out as they typically incorporate some of the smaller sculptural works. In the past, my installations have been very narrative and methodical in their construction. I start by making a figure and create an otherworldly environment for it to occupy. The smaller sculptural elements help to displace the viewer from their own reality. By situating a figure in an environment and surrounding it with surreal objects, I am able to disassociate our given reality and create a new, unique environment for the objects to exist in. The smaller works do take a generous amount of planning and time as well, but putting them together is much more technique based. Once I have sketched and settled on the final shape and material of the smaller pieces, it really is a question of figuring out how to make the original and mold. Mold making is tricky, it takes some time to figure out how to best break down an object for molding and casting.

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What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on a large immersive installation that will incorporate elements of sculpture, performance, video and augmented reality. I want to take the idea of installation to the next level and create an environment that makes you question the reality of what you are looking at. I've made a figure and smaller objects and have begun to create the environment that they live in.

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What links all your work?

I rely on the figure as a signifier in my work and rarely make sculptures or installation that does not have some sort of figurative element. I also typically work life-sized which helps the various projects communicate in a linear way.

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How do you run your studio practice? Do you have any advice for our readers about a healthy studio practice?

I need to spend consistent time in my studio in order to focus conceptually as well as materially. I like to work in large chunks of time (8-10 hours straight) for a few days consecutively and then take a day or two away from the studio to step away from the work. I can get nitpicky and a bit obsessive when working and I think its equally important to take the time to walk away and take a breather. It is hard for me to think clearly when I'm too close to the work. Since my sculptures are figurative and a lot of them are made from molds of my own body or in my own likeness, they easily become an extension of myself. It's important for me to remove myself from the work. I think it is paramount for artists to have interests and hobbies outside of the studio and the arts to have a healthy work/life balance. I find the hobbies, jobs, interests, and distractions I have from my studio are like palate cleansers. They end up giving me the space I need to think clearly and inform the work in the long run.

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What is the most rewarding part of your creative practice?

Without question, the most rewarding part of my creative practice is when I see someone engage with my work in a meaningful way. I did a series, Large Children Having Lost Their Heads, a few years ago that are balloons with faces on them. When installed, they look like actual balloons. I had an installation with about ten of them, and a family came through. The two children immediately went up to the balloons and tried to pull the ribbon as though it was a real balloon. They were a little confused when they realized the balloon was a sculpture and not a balloon, but then they caught the faces and started giggling uncontrollably. There is nothing better than putting a quizzical smile on a curious face.

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Create! Magazine International Women’s Issue 2019

We are honored to highlight incredible female artists from our art community In our latest print edition.

We will be donating $1 from each magazine sale and subscriptions to National Museum of Women in the Arts.


Please allow 2-3 weeks for domestic delivery and 3-5 weeks internationally. 

(Ships after April 10, 2019)

200+ pages of interviews and features with established, mid-career and emerging contemporary female artists for you to discover and be inspired by! We are proud to celebrate women in our art community!

Order the new edition via the link below or visit the full site to subscribe.


Cover Artist

Naomi Okubo   

Artists Selected by The Create! MagazineArtists Selected by The Create! Magazine

 Yvette Arendt

Ciele Beau 

Charlotte Brisland 

Ivana Carman

Andrea Castro 

Hollie Chastain 

Natalie Ciccoricco 

Maggie Evans 

Camila Fernández 

Erin Fitzpatrick 

Saskia Fleishman 

Katherine 

Fraser 

Orit Fuchs 

Rachel Grobstein 

Lindsay Hall 

Chloe Hedden 

Daina Higgins Emma Hill 

Monica Ikegwu 

Christina Klein 

Julie Liger-belair 

Eliana Marinari 

Jelena Marjanovic 

Tracy Murrell 

Lauren Mycroft 

Carrie Pearce 

Loreal Prystaj 

Teklė Pužauskaitė

Simona Ruscheva 

Denise Sanabria 

Natalia Savinova 

Annie Scull 

Lauren Shaw

Jamie Bates Slone 

Shamona Stokes 

Jenni Stringleman 

Claire Sweitzer Hawkins 

Jessica Tenbusch 

Jennifer Terrell 

Patricia-lee Wilson

 

Interviews

 

Naomi Okubo

Charlotte Edey

Kayla Mahaffey

Nadia Waheed

Nicolle Cure

Olympia Antoniadis

Yvette Mayorga

 

Women Working in the Arts

 

Cassandra Fiorenza

Founder and CEO, Collective 131

 

Devon Turner

Arts Educator

 

Rebecca Moore 

Director, Somerville Manning Gallery

 

Olivia Jia,

Arts Writer & Painter, Hyperallergic | Title Magazine | Artblog

 

Zoe Zarember 

 Director, Tambaran2 Gallery 

Art New York 2019 Highlight Exhibitors