For artists, from an artist. For women, from a woman.
Art has the power to show three sides to a story.
Here is the golden rule I abide by as an artist: you must challenge your own internal prejudices and stereotypes. Question your world view. Your cognitions. Your reactive behaviors. Face your vices, your demons, your ghosts: only then as an artist will you be able to create pieces that give your expression the real justice. Ultimately, this is what art depicts.
One of the largest stifler in creating true art? Being worried about what others may think. Self-censorship truly is the ultimate vice. It suffocates creativity and creates obstacles and hurdles that are self imposed. Really, think about it. No bars or barriers. No worries about backlash on your social impact. No concerns about where this will take you or how it will affect you. No frameworks. No trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. Once that is removed, you truly are free to create your art: visually, verbally, theatrically, metaphorically.
Idealistic? Perhaps to a level. Geographically, politically, culturally, this may not possible for many women. Many do not have the opportunity, resources, or chance not just to cultivate their artistic ability, but to even express their power. Yet, I won’t paint a picture of pure despair. As an artist, I believe where there is dark, there is light… a shadow is always followed by highlight. Through art, a global revolution is now taking place in a transformative direction for women. Art is a powerful tool to lobby for change and break stereotypes, while addressing prejudices that exist within us on a personal and social scale. Art opens the door to implement change through a different lens.
I’ve made this my mantra: Do not be afraid to let your art speak in fear of being heard or un-welcomed. And if you ruffle some feathers along the way, so be it. That just may mean you’re successfully fulfilling your role as an artist. Now, don’t take this as condoning to be controversial just for controversy’s sake. After all, art is about truth. And truth is subjective. And sometimes, the truth may hurt. Such a paradoxical web.
Images can shake and stir the soul. They can penetrate to the bone. Our human emotions are universal. Art, to me, is a metaphorical representation of what cannot be seen. I hope my art will facilitate a new culture of activism. A new culture that doesn’t look away, that doesn’t sugar coat, that doesn’t minimize issues. A new culture that speaks the objective truth, if one exists. A new culture that’ll open doors for others to join. It took me 15 years of just perfecting my skills and techniques before opening the door fully to display my works. This is just the beginning.
The artists who truly do break the stereotypes are the ones who defy the set paradigms and norms, and create platforms for much needed change. These are the artists who evolve, who create a movement, who lead the way by pioneering through murk. Art is always a clear reflection of historical representation when seen in retrospect. The art you see today will be in the books for tomorrow. I hope to be one of these artists.
Zainab has two Illinois exhibitions in November through December.
Zainab Zeb Khan is a visual artist, activist and humanitarian. She works proactively to address global social justice issues to remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability. She creates statement pieces that are influenced by history and current affairs. Zainab’s works have been featured internationally. Past exhibitions and projects have been with International Museum of Women; Galleries HQ; Jackson Junge Gallery; Arterie Fine Arts; Women’s Caucus of Arts; and National Museum of Women in the Arts. She is actively involved with the UN and non-profit organizations that primarily work to end gender disparity. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. Visit her website to learn more, follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook.