Nidaa Badwan Holed Up in Gaza—to Seek Escape

THE DAILY PIC: At Postmasters, Badwan's self-portraits came from spending 20 months in her room in Gaza, building better worlds of the mind.

Nidaa Badwan, 100 Days of Solitude; Code: 1 (2014). Courtesy of Postmasters, New York.

THE DAILY PIC (#1649): To make her photographic series called “100 Days of Solitude,” Palestinian artist Nidaa Badwan actually holed-up in her tiny room in Gaza for 20 months, constructing elaborately staged self-portraits propped with whatever meager belongings she had. Now on view at Postmasters in New York, the series is powerful and moving, especially for the image it conjures up of Badwan hard at work in the most parlous and oppressive circumstances.

I was particularly intrigued by the fact that Badwan chose to construct her photographic release from Gaza using the tropes and structures of European Old Master paintings. I wonder if those venerable works have become a very special place of escape for all kinds of artists whose actual encounters with European societies have been more troubled. (This applies even to African American artists, who often have the most complex relationships with Old World realisms.)

Or is “escape” the right word? The thing about Old Master paintings is that the worlds they depict are always bounded, boxed and framed—you can imagine the scene continuing beyond what you can see, but you know this is nothing more than an imagining. Painters chose bounds to set their scenes in and there’s no way we can escape them.

Badwan is stuck inside her room in Gaza, but also inside the worlds she builds in her photos.

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