Muslim American Woman
The large-scale installation, Muslim American Woman, unfolds from the center of the room with oversized six feet newspaper billboards filled with stereotypes associated with the words: Muslim, American and Woman. These words were collected from over hundreds of people. The posters also record incidents of hate-crimes and discrimination that people have experienced from all walks of life. The individual stories range from a young boy harassed in school because he has a name resembling Osama Bin Laden, to a young Muslim girl that was strip-searched at the Chicago airport because she was wearing a head scarf. At the corners of the triangle are three figures; all wax casts of my body. One called American, the other Muslim and the last Woman. All three are literally and figuratively wrapped in the stereotypes that we associate with each category.
In contrast to the highly graphic factual stories, the viewer is surrounded on all sides of the room with a series of twenty-five portraits painted on plexi-glass mounted directly to the gallery walls. The string of faces wrap around the space like a filmstrip juxtaposing Americans with Pakistanis, Muslims with Christians, men with women, and young with old. I interviewed each person about their lives, hope, fears, and dreams, and their words are recorded in a sea of text that flows behind each individual so it almost impossible to clearly define which words belong to which person. The words humanize the individual; they show us the common thread that we share as people. The installation gives insight into the lives of innocent people who have been targeted because they look different. By sharing these stories and experiences, the art installation’s intent is to help us see beyond our fears, increase our awareness of others, and help embrace differences within a universally shared existence.