Continuing with our research on the visual production of notable international women artists who have made significant contributions to the art world, on this occasion we present Shirin Neshat, painter, photographer, performer, video artist and filmmaker, considered by specialized critics as one of the most outstanding artists of Iranian contemporary art. Neshat was born in Qazvín, Iran, in 1957. Her childhood and adolescence were spent in her country, where she received an education based on the values ​​of the Islamic tradition in combination with Western, progressive values ​​and thoughts, a lifestyle admired by her father, a renowned Iranian doctor.

Neshat was born, grew up and did her first studies at the time of the constitutional monarchy of the last Shah of Iran, who undertook a policy of modernization of the country, established the right to vote for women and independence from all religious influence; but after his overthrow, in 1979, and the establishment of the Islamic Revolution, the political use of Islam was imposed under whose severe regime human rights and freedom of expression began to be violated, being inexorable with religious and sexual minorities, and with women, who are imposed a strict law on mandatory clothing, so much so that, recently, a young woman, Masha Amini, was arrested and beaten by the moral police, causing her death, for wearing the veil wrong, which has caused outrage and protests in the streets of Iran. Precisely, Neshat’s work is characterized, since the beginning of the 90s, by the treatment of the condition of women in contemporary Islamic societies, especially the Iranian; her feminist dimension, of western inspiration, is a fundamental element in her work.
1. Shirin Neshat. Women of Allah
At the age of 17, Neshat traveled to the United States and enrolled at the University of California, where she studied art from 1974 to 1982, earning a Master of Fine Arts. After the fall of the Shah, Neshat was unable to return to her country. After graduating, she lived in New York, where she married the Korean artist and curator Kyong Park. Together with him, she nurtured experimental and multidisciplinary art, an experience that would be useful for her to develop as an artist and seek her own voice.
Finally, in 1990 she was able to return to Iran and see the differences between the Iranian culture that she experienced in her childhood and youth, and the one she found formed 16 years after her absence, the one implanted by the Islamic Revolution, in which the ideological predominates, a republican and anti-Western theocracy; at that moment she finds a severe, extremist change in all areas of Iranian life, but what strikes her most is the absence of human rights and freedom of expression, particularly the condition of women, how they are treated. This strong experience led her to turn around the line of work that she had begun before her visit to Iran, which is why, when interviewed, she says that she really began as an artist in 1993.
2. Shirin Neshat. Women of Allah

Back in the United States, in New York, where she currently lives ─since 1996 she was banned from entering her country─, she begins some new artistic proposals, whose visual discourse is characterized by being critical, ironic, questioning, where she works with effects of the Islamic Revolution in terms of the construction of the being of the Iranian woman; that is, she focuses on the social, cultural, political, religious and ideological problems related to the conflicts suffered by Muslim women. Her first work, and perhaps the most relevant, is the series of photographs entitled Women of Allah (1) (2) (3) , developed between 1993 and 1997. In this series, works such as I am Its Secret, Faceless, Rebellious Silence, Stories of Martyrdom, Allegiance with Wakefulness, Seeking Martyrdom, Speechless; intervened large-format black and white photographs, where the artist and other women appear covered with the chador, the Iranian veil, and on their faces, hands and feet, like canvases, she prints writings in Persian calligraphy, as part of her language aesthetic, associated with poetry written by Muslim women as an instrument against Iranian political repression, and the weapon symbolizes the Iranian woman who doesn’t want to be seen as a passive being, as a victim, but as a strong fighter. And within this concept, she has produced video installations, performances and cinema, an area in which she won the Silver Lion as best director at the Venice Film Festival in 2009, for her feature film Women Without Men.

This artist has transcended, has expanded towards other cultures and has made productions inspired by cultures that have similar problems in relation to gender, such as Mexico, for example, a country to which she felt very attracted, where she made a film, Tooba (2002), with a Mexican cast. At that time, she didn’t rule out the possibility that Mexico would be her next home.
3. Shirin Neshat. Women of Allah

 

Written by José Gregorio Noroño,

 Arte Original.

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