Where is our rioting?
Last weekend’s Oceania festival in Spain featured an incredible collection of paintings and sculptures of defiant, taboo-breaking women. Viewed together, the works seem to probe the contradictions—if not outright panic—that are the result of a patriarchal society.
The artists represented the traditional arts of weaving, metalwork, ceramics, and of course, painting. And what comes across most with each of these beautiful creations is the skill that goes into producing them—the way the colors and shapes are absorbed into the frame.
Each of the five artists brought a distinctive style and style. I enjoyed some, but others just were off-putting or upsetting to the point of being creepy. I didn’t see any of them on display in the Tombs of Contemporary Art’s (TACA) Iranian Fine Art exhibition which is currently on view in the gallery at the Black Cat, 1428 P St. NW.
Unlike many other art scenes, art in Iran isn’t always political. Iranian art is often rooted in the traditions of the society. For that reason, images of women and sexuality can be found just about everywhere. There is no definitive set of “art norms” that apply in each country. The freedom artists (and the public) take to express themselves is constantly shifting.
That freedom is not always taken lightly. Although it’s been said to be taboo in Iran, women can paint “nude” in photographs, and there are a few women photographers in the country.
Then there is the somewhat common practice of a woman holding up a sign that reads: “My Name is Fatemeh.” This was the characteristic sign used by numerous women artists in Iran and is believed to bring fortune. I found it fascinating.
I find it hard to understand how this sort of thing could be considered “art” when there is a steady list of abusive things, from domestic violence to homophobic behavior, happening daily in Iran and around the world. Yet the lack of dissent, the lack of protest, the acceptance of these type of acts comes from a kind of fear. There is a deep reservation, real or fear-induced, that women don’t want to speak up, they don’t want to say anything.
There is too much hate, and just not enough love.
The anger, frustration, fear, and guilt are part of the foundation of art in Iran. The artists reflect all of this, and they are courageous enough to do so in their art. The fact that TACA’s Persian Fine Art exhibition had a booth in Cervantes Square in Spain was a good sign.
Perhaps this is the reason behind the relative lack of mainstream media coverage of what was happening in Iran on Oceania last weekend.
There is a history of political art that permeates many places around the world, including Iraq, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Palestine and the U.S. America is not immune from backlash, or praise, from artists and art shows in other parts of the world. But Iranian women are a little different. Iranian women are revolutionaries in the religious sense. They are women that do not conform to the rules.
One artist in the show said this: “One can not carry a weapon in the house. Women have more rights than men. If a woman enters a house and tries to scare people with a weapon, she will never be allowed in that house.”
If the Iranian revolution is about building a better and freer tomorrow for women, then women around the world should pay attention and model themselves after them. If the revolutionary is a woman, the revolution needs to be about more than politics. It needs to be about art. It needs to be about taking risks, standing up for freedom and a better future.
TACA continues its exhibit through Oct. 31. Meet the artists at the TACA reception on Oct. 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Black Cat. Visit their website for more information.