The Artists of "Breaking the Veils"
Click on each thumbnail to view a larger image of the artwork.
Oman, born 1949
Omaniat 3, 1992, oil on canvas
Rabha Mahmoud taught herself to paint. She grew up in Oman, where only three formal schools existed before 1970 and where art education wasn’t introduced till 1980. She has become one of the most important artists in Oman, as is her sister, who is also an artist. Like Omaniat 3, most of Mahmoud’s work uses bright colors and broad brushstrokes to evoke impressions of women in motion. Mahmoud holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature, but she has chosen to make painting her life’s work.
Palestine, born 1938
The Endless Cause, triptych, 1980, oil on canvas
Like most of Samia Zaru’s work, The Endless Cause grew out of what she calls "the Palestinian Problem." Zaru, who is a textile artist, painter, welder, weaver and graphic artist, uses bold colors and strong lines to communicate the tension in her work. She also integrates Palestinian embroidery and printed fabrics into her paintings, to help bring out a celebratory tone. Zaru studied art in both Beirut and Washington, D.C., before helping develop a government-sponsored arts program in Jordan. She still teaches students there.
Iran, born 1963
Untitled, 1997, mixed media on cardboard
Iranian-born artist Haideh Sharifi finds inspiration in classical Islamic art. In Untitled, for example, the archway is pulled from classic Islamic architecture; she drew on traditional decorative motifs and Persian calligraphy as well. Using those elements, Sharifi notes, is a way to forge a connection with her own cultural past, much of which has been destroyed. This piece, a mixed media on cardboard that was designed around a carefully symmetrical composition, mixes both traditional and contemporary elements.
Iraq, born 1939
The Blue Paradise, 1989, oil on canvas
Suad Attar painted The Blue Paradise in 1989. Although it is representative of the work the Iraqi painter did at the time — richly colored city scenes bathed in a dreamy turquoise blue — her more recent paintings reflect the current turmoil and strife in her homeland. Attar’s sister, who was also an artist, was killed during the bombings of Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War. That loss changed Attar’s work, which has become much darker in the years since.
Indonesia, born 1942
The Expression of Ultramarine Blue and Antique Coins, 1999, mixed media on canvas
Umi Dachlan’s abstract works, including The Expression of Ultramarine Blue and Antique Coins, help express the abstraction of Muslim religious teachings, which are conveyed as the supreme truth coming from Allah. Dachlan grew up in Indonesia and studied art in Amsterdam; the influences of both East and West are evident in her work.
Lady in Blue, undated, oil
Fahrelnissa Zeid was born in Istanbul, where her father was the chief advisor to the sultan of Turkey. She started painting at 14 and was one of the first women to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul. Although she began painting portraits and figures, such as Lady in Blue, in the 1970s, she worked in so many styles and subjects that art historians have struggled to place her within a defined category. Zeid was influential in training several other artists involved in "Breaking the Veils."
Bangladesh, born 1963
Waiting-39, 2001, acrylic on paper
Kanak Chakma’s Waiting-39 illustrates the simple beauty of rural life in Bangladesh, where she was born and now lives and works as an artist. Much of her work focuses on people in the hilly areas of Bangladesh in the midst of their daily chores. "The subjects of my paintings are ethnic," she says. "But I present my paintings in a modernized way, where there is a blending of Western and Eastern."
Palestine, born 1940
The Deal, Twenty Targets, The Sponsors, Amended Resolutions, all works 1994, silkscreen on paper
Since the early 1990s, Palestinian-born painter, graphic designer and illustrator Laila Shawa has made the cause of her people the primary subject of her work. The four pieces in Walls of Gaza — which are all silkscreens on paper — represent the layers of her sentiments about the Palestinian state and what she sees as "punishments which have been sanctified by the civilized world." Shawa now lives and works in London, where she continues to strive for synergy between political and aesthetic statements in her work.