A public garden & cultural center

Samira Abbassy

Outcasts: Women in the Wilderness
Glyndor Gallery | April 8–July 9, 2017

Pictured above: 
Autobiographical Confessions through effigies, idols, saints and Martyrs
A journey through the stages of a life: sex, love, marriage, childbirth, betrayal, rage, revenge, illness, healing and redemption, 2010-17
Mixed-media installation

Courtesy of the artist

Samira Abbassy’s self-portraiture and mixed-media sculptures explore cultural identity, knitting together disparate visual languages, conventions and myths drawn from Arab-Iranian, Persian, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist traditions. Her portraits feature female figures set in threatening conditions that evoke private yet universal struggles. She describes this installation as “an autobiography through effigies, idols and saints, with much love and some ammunition.” In the built-in cabinet in Glyndor Gallery, Abbassy’s presentation is “like a 19th-century anthropologist’s collection, or cabinet of curiosities.” Each hybrid figurine sculpture inside is labeled with notes about life events or states, portraying “a life’s journey through stages: sex, marriage, childbirth, betrayal, rage, illness, healing and redemption.”

Regarding the theme of the exhibition, Abbassy says, “Some emotional states that lead me to make my work are akin to a wilderness: unchartered, unreachable, indescribable and beyond logic or control.” She describes the freedom she feels in her studio: “If I successfully lose my sense of self, the process leads to a new thing—a manifestation of thought, fused with material—something that I had not predicted and have difficulty putting into words too soon after it’s made. But, given enough time, its meaning starts to emerge, like a dream that seems obvious and familiar yet still defies description.”

Abbassy shares Nancy Spero’s focus on particular art historical references, especially those from the late Egyptian Ptolemaic era. Abbassy is drawn to the images of the female form throughout history that appear in Spero’s work “as though cut out of time and quoted directly.” With increasing familiarity with Spero’s process, Abbassy has found that Spero also “cannibalized her work and made revisions of subjects with which she was obsessed throughout her life.”

Samira Abbassy moved to New York from London, U.K in 1988 to help found the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program. Her work is shown internationally and has been acquired by public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the UK Government Art Collection, London; the British Museum, London; the Burger Collection, Hong Kong; the Shelley and Donald Rubin Collection, New York; the Farjam Foundation Collection, Dubai; the Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon, India; and the Omid Foundation, Tehran.She has received a Joan Mitchell Painting and Sculpture award, a New York Foundation for the Arts award and a Yaddo residency fellowship. Abbassy graduated from Canterbury College of Art with a BA in fine art/painting.


Pictured above:
Sticking pins to heal, 2013
Doll parts, fabric, toothpicks, jewelry
Courtesy of the artist

Learn more about the artist here

The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.