The British-Iranian artist Sarah Maple has received death threats for her bold, unapologetically feminist work that tackles religion, politics, immigration, and gender, among other hot-button issues. But she’s still not holding back. As part of her first solo show in the US, titled “Thoughts and Prayers”—a nod to the country’s mass shooting epidemic—Maple is displaying one of her most controversial works: Menstruate With Pride (2010), a painted self-portrait in which she is wearing a white dress with a bright red stain at the crotch.
Although this is her stateside debut, you may already be familiar with Maple. The 34-year-old artist, who is Muslim, won Channel4/Saatchi Gallery’s New Sensations prize for emerging artists, and her Anti-Rape Cloak, a shapeless black garment satirically promising to protect the wearer from unwanted male attention by totally obscuring her body, went viral in 2015.
“I used to accept a lot at face value, but when I discovered feminism it motivated me not only to question the role of women but also the preconceived ideas relating to all things in society,” Maple said in her artist’s statement for the new show.
The show’s title comes, of course, from the condolences commonly offered by politicians in the aftermath of a mass shooting. In a chilling video, Maple hangs a black poster of the phrase on a clothesline in the woods and then takes aim at it with a semi-automatic weapon, the bullets tearing through the paper. It’s displayed alongside a grid of the posters, each riddled with gunshots.
“The gun debate is something especially intriguing to the British. The threat of terror is continually focused on and yet nothing is done about gun laws,” Maple told artnet News. “When officials offer up ‘thoughts and prayers,’ it appears hollow and insincere. I am interested in how a lack of action directly and/or indirectly inflicts suffering and potential violence on its citizens.”
Maple’s exhibition, which includes painting, photography, sculpture, collage, installation, and video, kicks off new series of solo exhibitions at the gallery—which has previously gained notice for its politically charged, feminist-centric group shows such as “ONE YEAR OF RESISTANCE” and “UPRISE/ANGRY WOMEN”—highlighting the work of women and minority artists.
“The Muslim woman is a highly underrepresented component of the art world,” gallery director Indira Cesarine told artnet News. “Sarah represents this whole paradigm of Muslim feminist artists, so she’s a really great fit to launch the series!”
See more works from the exhibition below.
“Sarah Maple: Thoughts and Prayers” is on view at the Untitled Space, 45 Lispenard Street, Unit 1, New York, January 22–February 9, 2019.
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