I’m always searching to recover what is lost, to rebuild my lost home. In many of the architectonic rooms I reconstruct, I close up the original space to create a window into a private space with no egress. This is a reflection of the classic Islamic architecture of the home, which has a specific meaning for the role of women—to be invisible and have no way out. I choose images that look culturally familiar to me, and as a woman of Iranian origin this can be a fabric pattern, a carpet, or simply an image that serves as a metaphor for the female gaze. Symmetry and mirroring are important design elements in Islamic art and architecture, and they crop up in the way I put images together and in my reconstructions of these rooms. My use of these elements is a nod to the self-referential nature of Islamic design, where repetition and mirroring of a single element creates every whole. My work invites the viewer to inhabit these spaces as a way to reimagine home.
The images I work with are layered and fused together to create a seamless composite, often printed on fabric, canvas, or wood panel. This fusion of image and support produces a forceful hybrid that conflates two modes of production tradition, photography and painting. They are eventually presented as layered installations with wallpapers or in slide and video projections, but the process begins with transferring my photographs to canvas or wood panels, where I paint over and into them with oil paint. In the mid-‘80s, I mastered a darkroom technique where I brushed gel on large canvases or wood panels to render them photosensitive. I then processed them in the darkroom and painted on them. In the late ‘90s and early aughts, computers and digital imaging replaced the darkroom, offering limitless editing possibilities. As a result, my work took on a new dimension. After much experimentation I developed a technique to treat (by hand, in the studio) fabric, canvas, or wood to make these materials ink-receptive. I now use a large format printer to print directly on the substrate before I stretch it to paint.
This entire process always begins with the photographs I take of historical monuments and cultural artifacts in institutional settings. These are structures where violence and plunder predominate, where fact and fiction are conflated, and where women and non-Western identities have historically been alienated. This is like drawing a place that you have been to from memory. Each individual photo is a memory fragment. Each representation develops through a process of transformation and manipulation in documenting, photographing, and archiving. This speaks to the fact that at any point in these processes, representation can easily become misrepresentation. The final works appear to be seamless, but each piece is made up of many fragments pieced together. This layering of the past and the present coincides with my profound sense of existing at once inside and outside cultural norms. My work is a space where these contradictory conditions may coexist as I seek to reimagine home.
Spring / Summer 2023
The Iran Issue
Fariba Hajamadi (b. Esfahan, Iran) lives and works in Los Angeles and Brooklyn. She received her BFA in painting from Western Michigan University and MFA from Calarts where she studied with John Baldessari. Her fellow students included Ashley Bickerton, Christopher Williams, Kate Ericson, Larry Johnson, Mel Ziegler, and Bill Wurtz. Since 1982 Hajamadi has made work that investigates displacement, loss, trauma, tragedy, war, culture and gender identity in large scale pieces using photo emulsion on canvas and painting on fabric, canvas, and wood panels. She often presents these works to generate new narrative possibilities by examining cultural appropriation and construction of the occidental narrative of the oriental Other through the lens of a woman born in a non-Western culture. Hajamadi’s work has been exhibited in the United States and internationally including solo exhibitions at Christine Burgin Gallery, Max Protetch Gallery, Queens Museum (all in NY); Galerie Laage-Salomon, Paris; Fonds Régionale d’Art Contemporain De Basse-Normandie; Musée Municipal de La Roche-sur-Yon; Ecole Régionale d’Art de Dunkerque; Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Maureen Paley, London; and the I.C.A., Philadelphia. Hajamadi’s work is included in many prestigious public collections worldwide.