Lalla Essaydi's Bullets Revisited #3 functions as both a photographic art object and a documentary of her performance art that encompasses calligraphy, interior design, costume design and stage direction.
The artist has long used henna painting to write calligraphic text on her model's exposed skin and clothing and this activity continues in the current work. Henna is traditionally a female practice while calligraphy is seen, particularly within Islamic culture, as a traditionally male purview. Essaydi's use of this device raises the issue of women being silenced within Islamic culture, emphasizes women's rich, but tragically often silenced, inner thoughts and has current relevance within the Arab Spring, in which women assume important roles but have found themselves too often again silenced after the revolution.
While the use of henna painted calligraphy grounds the work in the artist's rich oeuvre, a trompe l'oeil moves the work forward into new territory. Incredibly detailed, richly beautiful patterns were developed originally in Islamic art to decorate mosques as some Islamic religious texts explicitly prohibit Muslims from creating images of figures. The gorgeous patterns and simmering metallic materials within the image attract us to the artwork. Upon closer examination, these designs are revealed to be created by thousands of bullet casings. Bullets act as a powerful metaphor for the violence endured by and used to suppress women in too many Islamic cultures.
Bullets Revisited #3 references western artists' Middle Eastern and North African "Orientalist" paintings of the 19th century. These fantastic works beguiled western viewers into believing that the exotic images portrayed real life. While Essaydi similarly uses alluring beauty to enchant the viewer, by segmenting the image into three parts and retaining the black borders with a Kodak logo, she reminds viewers that the fantasy isn't real and challenges us to think more deeply about the important issues raised within this work.
Lalla A. Essaydi grew up in Morocco and now lives in USA where she received her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/TUFTS University in May 2003. Her work has been exhibited in many major international locales, including Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Texas, Buffalo, Colorado, New York, Syria, Ireland, England, France, the Netherlands, Sharjah, U.A.E., and Japan and is represented in a number of collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Fine Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Louvre Museum and The British National Museum. Her art, which often combines Islamic calligraphy with representations of the female body, addresses the complex reality of Arab female identity from the unique perspective of personal experience. In much of her work, she returns to her Moroccan girlhood, looking back on it as an adult woman caught somewhere between past and present, and as an artist, exploring the language in which to “speak” from this uncertain space.
Lalla Essaydi: Crossing Boundaries Bridging Cultures (ACR Edition, Paris, 2016)
Les Femmes du Maroc (powerHouse Books, Brooklyn, 2009)
Converging Territories (powerHouse Books, Brooklyn 2005)