Egyptian artist Ghada Amer is consistently adamant about not being categorized as any particular kind of artist or woman. As an Egypt-born, France-trained artist, Amer has consistently been in the middle of two cultures, with a desire to not wholly identify with either. As she said last night at her and long-time collaborator Reza Farkhonder’s new exhibit at the Tina Kim gallery, The Other, “I never want to be put in a box!”
Amer’s work is truly beautiful. Trained as a painter, she incorporates embroidery on canvas depicting sexualized female figures. The exhibit features a scene of Disney princesses kissing each other, and canvases of naked female forms atop beautiful watercolors and gold paint. They’re striking and provocative, yet are done with calming, soft pastels.
As stated on the Gagosian Gallery website, Amer’s embroideries ”[depict] explicit sexual acts with the delicacy of needle and thread, [so] their significance assumes a tenderness that simple objectification ignores.” Her art attempts to address the paradoxes of defining east and west, the feminine and the masculine, and the difference between what is art and what is craft.
Her embroideries are a long, laborious process. In a 2010 interview with the Daily Beast, Amer discussed the contrast between her choice of using pornographic imagery with an intimate, ancient craft. “I was looking for a way to paint with embroidery. I was depicting women doing domestic activities and the embroidery itself was a domestic activity. I needed to find imagery that would really challenge the embroidery as a medium and contradict it.”