About Shabnam Jannesari
Shabnam Jannesari is an Iranian artist and a MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She incorporates drawing and painting to explore a nostalgia of distant intimacies in her life. She illuminates the plight of the Iranian woman, censored by an overreaching patriarchy. Jannesari’s paintings express her personal story, but they also reflect on the suppression of women across Iran. Jannesari’s carefully composed figures empower the complex realities of Iranian female identity.
Iranian patriarchal society censors female independence – restricting what women can do, where they can go and what they can express. Because of these rules, women must cover their bodies with a hijab. Nonetheless, many women are conflicted – overtly following the rules of their families/society and covertly fighting these limitations by pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. Those who ascribe to cultural religious prescription, believe that women’s hair attracts men, and that a woman’s body spawns temptation and guilt. My own awareness of the effects of these social values is also personal: one of my friends was a victim of an acid attack because she was not wearing an “appropriate” hijab, a heinous act that limited her mobility and resulted in social isolation.
To counter this severe censorship, I am inspired to channel Michel Foucault’s notion of heterotopic space and create environments where women can exist freely. Foucault writes, “The traditional garden of the Persians was a sacred space that was supposed to unite four separate parts within its rectangle, representing the four parts of the world, as well as one space still more sacred than the others, a space that was like the navel, the center of the world brought into the garden…” (Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias). Their versatility allows me to construct an ideal, secret world outside of expectations and convention. While these paintings express my personal story they also reflect the life of Iranians and of all suppressed women. I address the complexity of Iranian female identity in the imagined space that departs from reality, creating a special, supportive, heterotopic representation.