New series underway inspired by publicly available mugshots. See more here (including some of James Holmes: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lapata/sets/72157633133037529/).
Afra Bin Dhaher
“In one day I could write fifty better poems than that. Really, how can you even call that poetry?”
“Oh and now you’ll say that the poem Ijaaz recited yesterday was nothing!”
“Well, yes. It was, after all, stolen.”
“Really! And now you’ll say that it was you who wrote it that he stole it from!”
“Why not? It is quite possible.”
My artwork maintains an uneasy alliance with the internet. I find my inspiration in these mystical tubes, whether I like it or not, but sometimes the inspirations send me messages that make no sense. In the past few days I started examining a group of images I had snatched from all different corners of the web and couldn’t make sense of what connected them together. The answer was embarrassingly superficial. It was the color pink. Originally, I had thought of doing a set of paintings around the Paula Broadwell/David Petraeus scandal, but the whole thing fizzled sadly, and General Petraeus, “The Warrior Scholar” (or Scholar Warrior?) is not a very interesting-looking man. What stayed with me was a bizarre coincidence: at the height of the scandal, the two women at the center of it, Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ hagiographer/mistress/jogging partner, and Jill Kelley, the Tampa hostess/Centcom hanger-on/honorary consul for South Korea who seemed to send and receive large amounts of email with everyone else involved, were both captured by paparazzi through windows wearing an identical shade of fuchsia (Kelley wore a flattering tailored sheath, whereas Broadwell had chosen a more modest cowl neck sweater). What could this mean? Had they coordinated? Is Fuchsia the new scarlet letter? There is no answer.
And then I was captivated by a section in the song “Mohabbat Hai Kya Cheez” from the Hindi film Prem Rog, in which the actress Padmini Kolhapuri comes leaping out of a lotus blossom wearing a lotus pink outfit covered with more blossoms. I found an image and downloaded it onto my desktop. In the last few days I also swiped a photo posted by a friend on Facebook, in which he models his new pink bow tie, and a picture of some Egyptian women performers with their mother. All were wearing shocking pink! I could have gone on. Another friend posted a photo of a random jogger he had encountered wearing pink from head to toe, including pink boxing gloves, but it was too blurry for my tastes.
This series then, is about the flotsam the internet throws my way. I like to say that as an artist I help people make sense of the barrage of imagery the face online on a daily basis, but sometimes, I can make no sense of it myself. The title is taken from a favorite song: The children’s book Eloise was a formative text for me, and I was startled to learn that the author, Kay Thompson, was actually a show business singer and arranger who played a memorable supporting role in the Fred Astaire/Audrey Hepburn film Funny Face. In the opening musical number, Thompson, who plays a fashion editor, decides that the new look for their next issue will be PINK! And thus ensues the number “Think Pink.” Like this series, it makes no particular sense.
About seventeen years ago, I started a project translating a collection of the Hindi author Upendranath Ashk’s short stories. The project has had a checkered career but is finally coming to fruition in March 2013 from Penguin India. The collection will be called Hats and Doctors, and two excerpts are now available online, one from Caravan, and one from Pratilipi.
Radio Open Source Podcast
I had a wonderful interview with Christopher Lydon for Radio Open Source last week. The full interview can be found here.
From my Bookslut review of Stranger Magic, by Marina Warner:
Said’s thesis has unfortunately made little effect in the US outside of the academy. The greatest ostensible change seems to be on the use of the term “oriental” for persons of Asian origin, which is no longer deemed politically correct. Beyond this I have found that when trying to explain his theory, there is a strong desire to reject it on the part of those who enjoy the cultural artifacts of traditional Orientalism, such as the writings of Kipling, or Orientalist paintings. I have never taken from Said the need to denounce or cast off all Orientalist works. There is no need to wrap your well-thumbed copy of The Arabian Nights in brown paper when taking it to read on the train. You can hang onto your Ingres print and display your little bits of chinoiserie about your living room without fear. We are not coming for your Rimsky-Korsakov records. Take heart! If all the world’s art and literature were rejected for its association with the project of empire building there would be little left to enjoy.
“Downtown Bobby Brown,” a painting from my new post on Whitney Houston at Chapati Mystery, The Journey of Everywoman. These paintings will also be on display at the Loo Gallery in the Dreamaway Lodge in Becket, MA, from March 11 through May, 2012.
If you are in New York City this weekend, check out Kanishka Raja’s installation “Switzerland for Movie Stars” at the Armory Art Show, March 8 - 11, 2012, Pier 94, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery. Not only will Kanishka’s paintings be a treat, but a faux-tourism pamphlet that is part of the installation, features a series of paintings by me, some painted especially for this exhibit, including the one above, based on a still from the film Darr.