Hiba Schahbaz, b. 1981, Pakistan
Self-Portrait as Eve (after Dürer)
Tea, watercolor, ink, poster paint on twinrocker
In the Indo-Persian tradition of miniatures, figures are painted exclusively in profile or three-quarter view, never making eye contact with the viewer. In Western art, the subjects will look at the viewer, but often times it’s really just the artist they are looking at, as seen in the cold hard gaze of Olympia, scornful of Manet’s commodification of her body for his own use.
In Schahbaz’s paintings, she gazes back at herself, finally able to make direct eye contact with the person who had been faceless for years. This eye contact came about last year when Schahbaz scaled up from the traditional miniature size paintings of 10 x 5 inches to paintings that were both life sized and larger than life.
Suddenly, her nudes became more than portraits of herself: they became portraits of the Goddess whose presence overwhelms and envelops the viewer in a feeling of serenity that is as sacred as it is empowering. “I think I’ve spent like 90% of my life trying to accept that I’m a female and that’s OK,” she told The Huffington Post, giving voice to a dynamic that women struggle with on an intimate level.
Schabaz tells Crave, “As a woman in Pakistan, my identity was in regards to everyone else. There were all these rules as a woman and none of them involved self-expression or being an individual. Here in New York, women are so powerful. We are allowed to have opinions, our own thoughts, our own lives. I’m just internalizing that in a way, coming emotionally to terms with my life and learning how to interact with the greater world.”