DEARBORN, Michigan — Yemeni-American artist Yasmine Nasser Diaz has been playing with the intimacy of bedroom installations for some time now. soft powers, her first solo museum exhibition, at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn — a part of the Detroit metropolitan area that is home to the largest Arab population in the US — features an a continuation of her Teenage Bedroom series, as well as a set of figurative works burned into velvet. The previous iteration in the series was developed during a 2019 residency at Habibi House in Detroit, and featured direct representations and documents from Diaz’s efforts to extricate herself from her biological family, in defiance of their intention to force her into a marriage arrangement against her will.
The velvet portraits are taken from photographs featuring tween and teenage Yemeni girls, each comfortable in their own company. While the archetype for youthful female friendship in the US is fraught with mean girl tropes, common cultural practices of Yemeni immigrant populations often place young girls and women under restrictive and punitive surveillance, making the solace of female companionship sometimes the only space held for them to be at ease. These portraits are captured and relief-burned into rayon-based velvet, a material which Diaz employs to reference the 1990s (her own teenage years), as well as the Yemeni style of dress known as a dir’ — a kind of partially transparent caftan worn by married women.
These works establish a tension between opacity and transparency, reveling in female interiority by introducing a bedroom scene, set behind a wall to form a distinct space in the gallery.
Visitors are invited to explore the space: lift the rotary phone to hear pre-recorded messages and fictional diary readings meticulously constructed (in collaboration with artist Randa Jarrar) that tell the story of two teenage sisters, each grappling with her own set of issues around identity and individuation.
Soft power, as Diaz defines it, deals with the ability to “attract and co-opt,” rather than to act by direct force. Likewise, soft powers does not dictate a message, but opens a space for exploration and empathy, asking visitors to feel their way through terrain that is perhaps foreign, or perhaps jarringly familiar.
Editor’s note (4/28/20, 4:44pm EST): A previous version of this article misstated the name of Diaz’s collaborator for her diary works. The collaborator is Randa Jarrar, not Arshia Haq. We regret the error.
soft powers was scheduled to remain on view from March 28 to September 6 at the Arab American National Museum (13624 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, MI). Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an online opening and walkthrough with the artist took place on Saturday, April 11, and is accessible on the museum’s YouTube and Instagram. The exhibition was curated by Elizabeth Barrett Sullivan. Diaz is an AANM 2020 Artist-in-Residence and Commissioned Artist.
Remembering the Migrants Who Died in US Detention
Artist Jackie Amézquita will lead a caravan of trucks with the names of the deceased to LA sites representing systems of oppression and solidarity for immigrants.
Mark Thomas Gibson’s Cartoons See the US Going Nowhere
If Thomas Nast, who is considered the “Father of the American Cartoon,” has an heir, it is Gibson, who goes one step further and elevates caricature and commentary into art.
Mondays at Pratt Institute: Weekly Openings of Work by Graduating Artists
Free and open to the public, Pratt Shows celebrate the school’s graduating students. MFA and BFA work on view this spring in Brooklyn, New York.
Kahori Kamiya Transmutes Grief Into Play
Through artworks that encourage viewers to explore varied vantages, Kamiya conveys her accrued wisdom and experiences without the weight of their pain.
Maya Deren in Vivid Focus
Maya Deren: Choreographed for Camera depicts how the artist’s life and ideas cemented her place as a champion and influencer of culture.
LSU School of Art Grants Highest MFA Stipends in the Southern US
With funded assistantships, full tuition waivers, and generous stipends, Louisiana State University helps students lay the groundwork for a successful lifelong art practice.
AI Image Generators Finally Figured Out Hands
Midjourney fixed its inability to render hands realistically, one of the telltale signs of an image being AI-generated.
Lorraine O’Grady, Emily Jacir Among American Academy of Arts’s 2023 Awardees
Artist Faith Ringgold and scholar Helen Hennessy Vendler received this year’s gold medals.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Offers Summer Art and Design Courses Online and On-Campus
Emerging and established artists can choose from over 50 Adult Continuing Education courses at one of the most influential art and design schools in the US.
MTV’s The Exhibit Needs a Cutthroat Judge
In episode three, the artists created works about the pandemic and bonded with each other, which is cute but doesn’t really make for good TV.
Cauleen Smith’s Drylongso Depicts a Bygone Oakland
Smith’s 1998 film exudes the DIY charm of a low-budget, first-time feature while keenly depicting the complexities of both race- and gender-related inequalities.
IDSVA Offers a Non-Studio PhD in Visual Arts: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory
With no campus, the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts is a truly nomadic institution, existing everywhere our students and faculty are.
Take Ai Weiwei’s Middle Finger Anywhere in the World
A new collaboration between the artist and Avant Arte invites users to flip the bird anywhere and everywhere on Google Maps.
This week, gifted DeSantis a “fascist” snowflake, NASA’s Webb telescope captures a supernova, corporatizing London’s creativity, and much more.