Egyptian-American Artist Offers Erotic View of Women’s Role in Muslim Society

Alexandra Stanisic

Erotic pictures, stitched canvas and long dangling threads are the signature style of Egyptian artist Ghada Amer, whose art is being featured at the Brooklyn Museum exhibition through October 19. “Love Has No End,” her first retrospective work to be displayed in the United States, deals with the power of female sexuality, and the inexhaustible question of women’s status within contemporary society.

In the words of the New York Times, the exhibition “has plenty of glamour, sex and multicultural baggage, but no logos.” Like many artists, Amer uses her rather specific experiences as a vehicle for addressing more universal topics.

An exploration of the myriad social and personal restrictions imposed upon women within Muslim society, her art also examines the West’s perceptions of the Islamic world. The exposition and scrutiny of these divergent realities are the driving forces behind Amer’s embroidery technique, according to the New York Times.

Born in Cairo, but having lived in France for 11 years, Amer moved to Manhattan just four years ago. She decided to become an artist after visiting her family in Cairo in 1988, during which time she witnessed the adoption, once again, of the veil, an experience that left her feeling deeply conflicted.

Since then, she has used her art as an instrument of personal expression, stroking her audience with her open imagination. The inclusion in her 1991 series “I love Paris” of  photos of herself and two other women posing in Burkas in front of various Parisian monunents coincided with a controversy in France over Islamic clothing at the time. Her canvases contain pornographic images that have been altered by small-point stitch work where long threads are left dangling. Presumably aware of the sensitivity of this technique, she uses transparent gel to glue the threads to the surface, thereby blurring the racy images.

Amer’s provocative art was described by the International Herald Tribune as a means of liberating herself while investigating and examining the place of women within Muslim and Western cultures. The end product as well as her inquiries need not be taken as an impulsive inspiration of the moment, but rather as the result of a systematic work, as she told the International Herlad Tribune.


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