Hayv Kahraman

Hayv Kahraman left her native Iraq when she was just eleven years old, in the midst of the first Gulf War. As a refugee, Kahraman traveled through the Middle East and northern Africa before arriving in Sweden. Kahraman roots her work in this transformative experience, contemplating what she calls a “migrant consciousness.” Mining the psychological and physical repercussions of being displaced from home, Kahraman has conceived a personal iconography that draws on art historical traditions, including Renaissance painting, illuminated manuscripts, and Japanese woodblock printing, as well as illustrations found in contemporary wartime propaganda and combat manuals.

In Kahraman’s paintings, the eastern and western worlds collide, and the female body is caught in the crosshairs. She attributes her fascination with the human form in part to having been raised in an Arab culture, where women’s bodies are contested and politicized, yet she explains that moving to the United States as an adult was also formative in the development of her language. Since arriving in this country, the artist has witnessed the barrage of exterior forces and belief systems that impact women’s bodies, which are often treated as malleable objects. As such, the female subjects of her work embody a variety of desirable personas — regal, playful, sensuous — but just as often are portrayed as distorted, disfigured, or broken.

What's pictured: Hayv Kahraman, LRAD.1, 2016, oil on linen and acoustic foam, 64 x 64 in., © Hayv Kahraman. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Kahraman’s recent work, on view in this exhibition, responds to her first memories of war-torn Iraq — specifically the foreboding wail of air raid sirens that provided the soundtrack of her youth. With this haunting recollection still potent more than twenty years later, the artist began studying the use of sound as a power mechanism. Kahraman’s research led her to a new weapon in the U.S. military’s arsenal known as an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device). Mounted on Humvees patrolling Iraqi cities, these controversial loudspeakers emit an antagonistic cacophony meant to intimidate citizens. The artist’s references to aural experience may not be immediately apparent in her latest paintings. Her focus remains on the female form, however she has introduced new manipulations of the body. In a gesture of calculated violence, the artist uses thin blades to make tiny incisions through the linen surface, creating the outline of the LRAD speakers that provided the soundtrack of her youth. Further disturbing the painted image, Kahraman pushes acoustic padding through the linen, the peaks of the foam just visible in the wounds left behind by her knife, as though she is trying to dull the noise.

Exhibition-Related Events & Programs

Thursday, November 3 @ 6 pm (cash bar @ 5 pm)
Artist Performance
The public is invited to this collective lecture performance, orchestrated by artist Hayv Kahraman, at Joslyn Art Museum. This event, approximately 45 minutes in length, will reflect the notion of diaspora, or the scattering of a population from its original homeland. Kahraman says:

"My process begins by narrating personal memories that unarguably are specific yet could be part of a collective history. The self is used as a formal/lingual vehicle to communicate and share the life/lives of the other/s. I am concerned with the multitude not the self. This is not only my story. It can be the story of more than 5 million people within the Iraqi diaspora or any diaspora. I do not intend to generalize. It is merely a re-creation of what I have experienced and what I see people around me experiencing. This is her story but it is also her and her and her and her story."

Admission to this event is free.

The Karen and Doug Riley Contemporary Artists Project Gallery

A 500-square-foot space in the Scott Pavilion suite of galleries, the Riley CAP Gallery showcases nationally- and internationally-recognized artists, as well as emerging talent, selected by Joslyn curators. A rotating schedule of intimate, carefully focused exhibitions will examine how artists engage with the world and respond to the issues that challenge them creatively, bringing new perspectives on contemporary art to Nebraska.

Riley CAP Gallery artists will be invited to Joslyn for lectures and other public programs, giving audiences the opportunity to gain insight into creative processes and contribute to an expanded dialogue about new art. The first Joslyn gallery dedicated exclusively to living artists, the Riley CAP Gallery represents an important step in making contemporary art an even more integral component of the Museum’s exhibition programming.