Sa’dia Rehman

Artist Statement


My artistic practice has moved into the realm of the experimental, partial, and unfinished. This experimentalism shows up in my evolving selection of materials and processes of mark-­‐making, cut-­‐outs, and collage. I am testing and critiquing the possibilities and limits of visual and written language. In working with imagery that is often marked foreign, my work challenges the position of the universal. The work grapples with the dialectics of language, between having and lacking the power to define how we speak, how we are seen and heard.

The primary materials with which I work are family photos, English and Urdu text, and intimate and ritual objects. I am interested in the photos as private records and in what happens when they are made public. While the images reflect aspects of heterosexual American family normalcy, adornments such as beards, hijab, and salwar kameez mark the family as strange and out of place. English and Urdu are my original languages of home and displacement. The intimate and ritual objects include Muslim prayer rugs. These objects are typical in Muslim homes, where they create visual traces of memory and migration.

Alongside my core materials are labor-­‐intensive processes with which I am experimenting: stencils and cut outs; copying, dismantling, re-­‐assembling, and collage. I copy images; cut lines in and through faces and silhouettes; layer, re-­‐copy, re-­‐size, and flatten images into disorienting collages. The collage techniques invert the relationship between positive and negative space, scrambling what it means to be absent or present. My work relies on the medium of my own experience, that of my Pakistani immigrant Muslim family, our visual references and our everyday relics. I critique socially constructed barriers on different scales—the body, the family, the nation, the globe.