The Huffington Post recently wrote an excellent review of the ground-breaking Third Muslim group art show that opened at the SOMarts gallery in San Francisco on January 26th. Co-curated by Yas Ahmed and Zulfikar Bhutto, this show is giving a platform to queer/trans artists who have some connection to the Muslim world and whose lives have been deeply affected by the intersection of the different worlds and identities they must navigate.
Click on the link below to read an in-depth piece on what the Third Muslim show is about and to get a sneak peak at some of art, including one of the pieces I created for the exhibit, titled "It's Complicated". I will go into a more in-depth conversation around the pieces I created for the show in a different post. But for now, check out the Huffington Post article here.
Although my professional career has predominately centered around fashion and apparel design, I have been passionate about ceramics for almost 15 years now. For me, ceramics has been yet another interesting medium to approach as a blank canvas to create art & designs on.
SAVAGE MUSE ABSTRACT ART PLATTER
This platter is a piece I painted on my birthday a couple of years ago. For me, going into a ceramic painting studio to paint all day is my kind of birthday celebration!
This platter is being featured on a new NBC TV show about crafting called "Making It" starring Amy Poehler-- I believe it will be airing this fall/winter.
CUSTOMIZED WEDDING GIFT CERAMICS
A wedding gift tradition I started about 15 years ago is to create customized ceramic pieces to reflect the love story and taste/lifestyle of the friends/family members getting married. I ask both of the people getting married a series of questions about how they met, their favorite food/dining experiences, favorite colors, travel spots, etc. Based on those questions, I choose a piece(s) of ceramic that is symbolic of their love/life and paint it to reflect their union.
AMOR Y ALMA WEDDING PLATTER
When my good friend and renowned Native Foods Chef & Healer, Felicia Cococtzin Ruiz of Kitchen Curandura was getting married a couple of years ago, I knew I wanted to create a special platter that she could use to serve special meals to her family for years to come.
I wanted to surprise her with the platter, so instead of sending her a questionnaire to figure out what kind of ceramic I should create for her, I took a look at her Instagram page and paid attention to what colors, patterns, and textiles she was using and featuring on her posts.
Based on the images, below, I came up with three different potential colorways and designs. I knew I would be limited by whatever paint colors and resources would be available for me at my local "ceramic painting" shop, so I didn't know until I went to paint the piece which of the three designs I would end up creating.
The final platter design reflects Felicia's Xicana/Latina and Native American heritage and the use of the Spanish words of "Amor Y Alma" which means "Love and Soul" were my way of honoring her marriage and wedding ceremony.
PROCESS OF PAINTING CERAMIC IN STUDIO
PLATTER FOR MAHFAM & CRISTOBAL'S WEDDING
When my Persian cousin, Mahfam (who owns an artisinal food/catering company called M.A.H.F) married her Chilean chef husband, Cristobal, I knew I had to design a platter for them that they could use for many years to come and feed family and friends their exquisite culinary creations. With a love of Spain and Spanish art from the mid-century as my inspiration, I created this bold platter as my offering to their love and union.
COFFEE MUGS ARE FOR MORNINGS IN BED
This pair of coffee mugs was designed for a beautiful couple who are good friends- she is a renowned film maker and he is a handsome actor. Their favorite romantic ritual is to share coffee with each other in bed every morning. Their favorites colors a blues and rust/oranges. They prefer more modern and geometric shapes.
Recently, I took a survey amongst my social network to see which Middle Eastern women were considered style icons, social distruptors & muses to them. Over a hundred comments later on my feed and the muses kept rolling in. I was both humbled and blown away by the rich herstory of fiercely talented and beautiful women who have broken boundaries, healed the hearts of their nations, and brought decades of inspiration to those they have touched with their lives' work and missions. Please note: I'm using the term "Middle Eastern" somewhat loosely here to include North Africa, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and all of the Arab-speaking nations.
One of the most iconic and celebrated of these women is Oum Kalthoum (also spelled Umm Kulthum). She was an internationally famous Egyptian singer, songwriter, and film actress active from the 1920s to the 1970s. She was given the name "The Voice of Egypt", but her music and her unique singing style has been mesmerizing the entire Arab world and beyond for decades now.
“ Imagine a singer with the virtuosity of Joan Sutherland or Ella Fitzgerald, the public persona of Eleanor Roosevelt and the audience of Elvis and you have Oum Kalthoum, the most accomplished singer of her century in the Arab world. ”
— Virginia Danielson, Harvard Magazine
What I love about this singing diva of divas is that not only did she have a unique singing style, but she also had a very distinct personal sense of style. To me, she looks like an Arab goddess mashup of Roy Orbison (with her dark sunglasses), Jackie Kennedy (with her smart tweed tailored suit skirts) and Amy Winehouse (with her bouffant beehive hairdo).
I will be exploring Oum Kalthoum, her style and the impact she has had on generations of Arab/Middle Easterners in future posts. For now though, I leave you with this live performance that Beyonce did where the music she sampled is from an iconic Oum Kalthoumsong “Enta Omri” (you are my life), one of Kalthoum’s biggest hits and most famous musical pieces of all time in the Arab world. Though definitely a sexy way to start the show, Beyonce's use of Kalthoum's iconic music has been criticized as cultural appropriation and according to this Muslim Girl article "an orientalist nightmare".
And here is some (blurry) but amazing footage of Oum Khaltoum performing "Enta Omri" live many moons ago. I feel swept away be her voice and the rhythms of the music and beat. I can only imagine how the audience felt in her presence, allowing her voice and the hypnotic rhythms lull them into a trance-like state of ecstasy.
Last night, I found myself in a setting fit for a scene out of "Arabian Nights". Instead of Scheherezadeh trying to save her neck from imminent death by the deeply misogynistic ruler, Sharyar, I was enveloped in a world of fierce, gorgeous, powerful goddesses who were reclaiming the narrative of the exoticized orientalist fantasies of the harem.
Orientalize yourself, Fetishize yourself...
This is how I would describe the magical, sensual photoshoot event put together by the newly formed MOOZIS. The MOOZIS (as per their FB page) "are a collective of artists attempting to bring together kindred peoples of non-traditional, feminist, sex-positive, gender and non-gender inclusive, progressive, multi-abled, creative and multiplicitous cultural and spiritual Muslims. We are interested in learning through internal exchange with our kindred without judgement while creating playful, subcultural programs to connect, learn and make ourselves count in the definition and understandings of Muslims. We hope to use this cultural exchange to create an elaborate extended network that can help and collaborate, building us strong and out of isolation."
As a finale to their spring residency at The Women's Center for Creative Work in Los Angeles, the MOOZIS (founded by Amitis Motevalli, Arshia Fatima Haq and Sasha Ali), organized a photoshoot for the MOOZI members with the theme " Internally Orientalized Auto-Ethnographic Portraits". Those of us who were invited to participate in this photo shoot were encouraged to "orientalize yourself, fetishize yourself, and portray yourself as you please."
This definitely appealed to my inner Savage Muse and I very enthusiastically pulled together a look that allowed me to orientalize and fetishize myself. You will have to wait to see the final results of the photo shoot, shot by the very talented photographer Labbie Manesh .
In addition to the talented photograher and gorgeous MOOZI models, part of what made this photoshoot absolutely magical and stunning was the fact that we had it at a historical rug shop in Pasadena that has been around since the 1930's. The Pasadena Rug Mart is a treasure trove of antiques, rug, art and exquisite relics of a sensual and romantic past, run by a third generation descendant of Oriental rug master weavers and merchants, Mr. Abbas Firouzi. Sadly, they will be closing their doors soon, so if you have a chance, pay them a visit and get yourself an authentic Persian rug or antiques before this treasure of a store is gone.