Ghada Amer | Artist Profile

Whatever happened to loving our bodies and discovering them without shame or discomfort? This is the notion New York City based artist Ghada Amer has been refining through a variety of media for the past decade. The result, is art that bothers, questions, but also invites to cross boundaries, in an effort to find a freedom of exploration that was prohibited to the artist for many years. 

Born in Cairo in 1963, Amer grew up in a country where sexuality was and still is taboo. Moving to the United States during her teenage years, she found a similar mentality there, with prudent thoughts and actions that turn one’s body into an enemy.

Encyclopedia of pleasure Ghada Amer Deitch Projects
Encyclopedia of pleasure
Courtesy of Deitch Projects and the artist

In her Encyclopedia of pleasure, shown at Deitch Projects in 2011, she transcribed chapters from the book written by Ali Ibn Nasr Al Katib in the late 11th century. 
Embroidered onto fifty seven cardboard boxes and translated into English, texts relating to feminine pleasure demonstrated how sexuality was once widely accepted and openly discussed in the Arab world. 

Knotty But Nice Ghada Amer at Gagosian Gallery Breathe into me
Knotty but nice
Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery and the artist 

Still using embroidery as a representation of the delicate feminine character, Amer drew inspiration from women shown in western, soft-porn magazines for her Breathe into me exhibition at Gagosian in 2006. Seemingly abstract works revealed explicit images, softened by the silky threads and pastel colours, transforming the vulgar into subtle. 

Rainbow Girls Ghada Amer Cheim & Read
Rainbow Girls - Exhibition shot
Courtesy of Cheim & Read and the artist

In her most recent show Rainbow Girls, presented at Cheim & Read earlier this year, Amer gave a voice to her women by embroidering phrases of historical feminist figures onto her portraits and nudes, aiming at their de-objectification. Contrasting with her canvases, the metal Mashrabiya sculptures intertwining calligraphy and figures clearly marked the contrast between the acceptance of the feminine in Middle Eastern and Western cultures.

Breaking free of the politically correct, and redefining the place of women in today’s societies, Amer does not accept the label of feminist. The absence of direct messages, paired with the use of languages often foreign to the countries where her work is exhibited, make this statement clear. 
Instead, she advocates freedom of self discovery. “I believe that all women should like their bodies and use them as tools of seduction” she states. 

Some think of her work as subtly erotic, while others scream in protest against pornographic, undermining images. The latter are, presumably, afraid of stepping our of their comfort zone. And perhaps concerned, too, that the sight of Amer’s women and bodies might pervert them into generally frowned upon liberties.

From 21 October through 20 December 2014, Ghada Amer’s thought provoking works will be part of Mauvais Genre, a group exhibition presented at Addict Galerie in Paris.