Anisa Ashkar: Take Care
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Anisa Ashkar: Take Care

Anisa Ashkar is an interdisciplinary Arab artist born in Acre, engaged in issues related to identity, social critique, and gender. Materials play a key role in her work, and they are all charged with questions of identity. In Golden Mean (2015) the gold stains confer sanctity on the plants while testing their capacity for survival once their branches are cut off. One of the boxes also contains a shirt worn by the artist in 2000 during her performance دائمًا (Always). In this way, she establishes a connection between her current pieces and her past work. Ashkar regards cotton as a self-portrait and uses it to pursue the contrast between black and white, which has informed her performances in recent years. Blackness is often represented in her work by tar, a material which may also refer to the cotton-picking black slaves in the history of the United States. It is also embodied in Black Coffee (2005), as one of the self-portraits in the exhibition is titled. The inscription on the artist’s face is a quotation from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “My Mother,” saying, “I miss my mother’s bread, my mother’s coffee, her touch.” In addition, Ashkar employs materials such as olive oil, chocolate, and rice. She regards painting in much the same way as performance: everything is done deliberately yet there is always an unexpected element. These works bespeak a “return to the kitchen,” breaching the boundary between art and life.
Featured in the exhibition are five self-portraits with facial inscriptions. The words in the title Take Care of Yourself (Iphigenia) (2003) – as well as in the exhibition’s title – are the anxious utterance of the artist’s mother at the end of every phone conversation between them. The ram horns on Ashkar’s shoulders limit her freedom of movement and recall both the ram sacrificed instead of Isaac and the story of Iphigenia in Aulis. According to one of the story’s versions, Iphigenia was saved from being sacrificed by her father, Agamemnon, when Artemis replaced her on the altar with a deer. The piece of lace tied to the artist’s hair stresses the sacrifice of women, associated with their loss of personal freedom on being married. The text on Ashkar’s face in Agria Matia 4 (The Wild Eyes) (2006) is, according to her, a poetic representation of the figure of the Gorgon Medusa prior to being punished by Athena. In contrast, in a 2004 diptych the inscriptions on her shirt proclaim: Champion 1 (Muhammad Ali) and Champion 2 (Muhammad Ali).
 
Meira Perry-Lehmann
Curator of the Exhibition

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