Tuesday, June 9, 2009

AMATEUR: Perspectives: Women, Art & Islam at MoCADA

I was thrilled to find out that the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (80 Hansen Place) is located right in my neighborhood, and this weekend, I saw the Artist Talk surrounding their latest exhibit, "Perspectives: Women, Art and Islam." The exhibit is open until September 13, and I would encourage you to go and see it, although it felt a bit amateur to me. The show features work by Fariba Alam, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Mahwish Chishty, Safaa Erruas and Nsenga Knight. Some of the work was intriguing and lovely, and the artists were all clearly thoughtful and interesting, but in the end, I felt as though MoCADA had slapped things together a little too quickly, and though of course there were common threads in everything, it was difficult to see the show as cohesive.

I suppose I always find it difficult to strike a balance between identity and art, and so shows that focus entirely on the identity of the artist tend to grate of me a bit, but the talk, and the exhibit, bring up many interesting questions about religion's place in art and art's place in religion. Although I don't think anyone piece focused as much on gender as I would have liked, I can easily consider that a good thing, because there is something problematic to me about saying, "Okay, you're a woman. You're a Muslim. What you create is inherently touched by that and should focus on that." Of course in an exhibit picked particularly for these things, one expects to see it, and so I was glad to see some of the more abstract pieces and how they approached the topic. I do think the museum is doing some important, interesting things, and that this exhibit is worth seeing. I just wonder if there was a more cohesive or thoughtful way to run this show.

If you're interested, tonight there's a lecture and that might be a good excuse to check it out: Dr. Halima Taha, one of the leading authorities on collecting African-American art and an active follower of Islam, will discuss the history of Islam in the United States and misconceptions about the roles of women within the religion. Admission: $5. Free for MoCADA and MfAA members.

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