Rose Mary Gorman: 615.744.3332, ”
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, ”, ”


NASHVILLE, TENN.—(Sept. 12, 2008)—The Frist Center for the Visual Arts will open Indelible: The Photographs of Lalla Essaydi Friday, Oct. 10 in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery. The exhibition will feature 17 photographs by the Moroccan artist, who focuses her lens on the social and psychological experiences of women in Islamic societies and the complex issues shaping the identity of Arab women in the world today. Essaydi will discuss her work at an Artist’s Perspective lecture Friday, Oct. 10 at noon at the Frist Center. Indelible will be on view through Jan. 25, 2009.

Essaydi now lives in the United States but regularly returns to Morocco to shoot her photographs. In what she calls workshops, Essaydi gathers with as many as 20 women and girls in her family’s country home. The women sit for lengthy sessions during which the artist covers their skin, and often their clothing and the walls around them, with an elegant Arabic calligraphic script. Her artistic process combines the female craft of henna body painting with the traditionally male art of Arabic calligraphy. As a subversive act, she ignores and ultimately undermines the long-standing gender associations of both art forms and the hierarchical distinctions Islamic societies make between them.

Essaydi’s multi-layered photographs challenge Western as well as Islamic art historical traditions, especially Orientalism. For centuries, European and American artists represented the women of North Africa as sensuous nudes reclining in opulent interiors. The women in Essaydi’s photographs often perform scenes from famous Orientalist paintings, but the artist manipulates and rewrites the imagery in an effort to break its powerful hold. In the process, Essaydi creates her own, equally memorable images. At the same time, she works toward the creation of a new visual identity for Arab women.

“Together with other female Muslim artists such as Shirin Neshat and Emily Jacir, Essaydi is changing the face of contemporary art and shattering stereotypes,” says Trinita Kennedy, associate curator at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. “An exhibition like this is a first for Nashville. It will be challenging for our audience, but these photographs are important for us all to see and experience.”

Lalla Essaydi was born in Marrakech, Morocco in 1956. She studied painting and drawing at L’Ecole des Beaux Art in Paris, and photography and installation at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University (Boston), where she earned a bachelor of fine arts in 1999 and a master of fine arts in 2003. She currently lives in New York and Boston. Her work is included in the permanent collections of The Art Institute of Chicago; The Brooks Museum of Art (Memphis); The Fries Museum (Netherlands); The Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, Texas); Williams College Museum of Art (Williamstown, Mass.) and other museums.

This exhibition was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

The 2008 Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery exhibition sponsor is Morgan Keegan and Welling LaGrone.

Related Programs

Friday, October 10 Artist’s Perspective: Lalla Essaydi
Meet at Information Desk
Free with purchase of gallery admission

Join artist Lalla Essaydi as she leads an informal conversation about some of her work presented in Indelible: The Photographs of Lalla Essaydi.

Sunday, November 9 Family Day
1¬–5:30 p.m.
Free admission

Family and friends will enjoy a fun-filled day of excitement of special art making activities, live music and dance performances. Exhibitions on view include The Best of Photography and Film from the George Eastman House Collection; Indelible: The Photographs of Lalla Essaydi; Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession, Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation; and Young Tennessee Artists: 2008 Statewide Advanced Placement* Studio Art. *Advanced Placement is a trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this exhibition.

Friday, November 21 ARTini
7 p.m.
Meet at the information desk
Free with purchase of gallery admission

Stefanie Gerber Darr, educator for public programs at the Frist Center, will lead an informal conversation about one or two works of art in this exhibition. Visitors may also enjoy music in the Grand Lobby, martinis, wine and other beverages at the cash bar and visiting with friends.

Thursday, January 8 Lecture
6:30 pm

Join Maryam Ekhtiar, Ph.D., senior research associate in the department of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), for a lecture on contemporary Islamic art.

About the Frist Center

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., is an art exhibition center dedicated to presenting the finest visual art from local, regional, U.S. and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features more than 30 interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and military and $6.50 for college students with ID. Thursday evenings, 5–9 p.m., admission is free for college students with a valid college ID. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling 615.744.3246. The Frist Center is open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sundays, 1–5:30 p.m., with the Frist Center Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling 615.244.3340 or by visiting our Web site at

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