Archive | May, 2020

Courage to Create

28 May

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?  These words of Vincent VanGogh ran through my mind as I read about Zarina Hashmi last week.

Zarina Hashmi was an American artist who went by only her first name, Zarina.  She recently passed away in April from Alzheimers.  Born in India, she used Islamic type decoration as visual elements in her art.  Her geometic style is similar to the minimalist style of the 1970s.

According to Gallery Espace in New Delhi, India, Zarina has a unique “ability to distil emotion down to its most essential and expressive forms.”   To view some of her artwork at Gallery Espace, click here: www.galleryespace.com She has many pieces from a 2007 show that are unique paper cast sculptures.

After doing a lot of travel, she began incorporating maps into her art work.  She expanded her ideas to include topographical details of cities that had been altered by political turmoil, such as India, NY, Baghdad, Kabul, and others.

MoMA has 43 Zarina works online that you can view on their website.  www.moma.org    She has a lot of interesting art but her prints are what interest me the most.  In an interview with editors of the 1970 issue of Vrishchik, she states that she didn’t have a lot of space or money when she first moved to NYC, so she devised her own paper casting mold by drilling holes in plastic.

In 1980 she was invited to co-curate an exhibition and design the catalog for the A.I.R. Gallery in NYC but they didn’t want her to show in it because of her race.  They just wanted her to do the work of curating and making the catalog.  In the end, things worked out and she did end up participating.

Zarina created many woodcut prints as well as her own paper, sculpture, drawing and often paired writing or words printed in Urdu, her native language from India.  She taught in several universities, NY-FAI, NYU and Cornell.  Her work was important to the art world because she explored home, displacement, and memory in a profound way through her prints.

Courtney Stewart with the Met Museum Research Department of Islamic Art questioned Zarina about the role of an artist in society.

“I think we are witnesses to the times we are living in.” stated Zarina.  She went on to explain how she saw Aligarh, her hometown, divided by a politically drawn line separated into India and Pakistan.  1947 was a tragic time where she saw villages burning with the British partition.

When asked “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?”, she said “Keep on working.  Just keep on working.  You will find a language for yourself.”

She reminisced “Everybody can draw, you know – skills don’t make art.  That is the least important part.  I’ve been a teacher for 25 years in this country, so I can teach the skills.  Ideas make art.  There are lots of people who can’t draw but they can make big art – great art, because it comes from ideas.  You can teach skills but you can’t teach ideas.”

Despite her not attending art school she had a long and successful art career.  The Jeanne Bucher Jaeger Gallery in Paris, writes that Zarina became more and more convinced that a superior force guided her life.  In accepting this light, she began using gold leaf the past few years, as she considered her artistic voyage as more of a universal spiritual destination.

To read Zarina’s biography, go to zarina-hashmi.com or the artist’s official website at www.zarina.work

Video: Zarina YouTube Video by Tate

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