The Arts Council of Princeton will bring a fresh artistic perspective to downtown Princeton with the Thursday, October 4, opening of its contribution to the state-wide Fertile Crescent Project, a showcase of exhibitions, lectures, performances, film screenings, and events focused on women artists from the Middle East

The Fertile Crescent Project is an initiative of Judith K. Brodsky and Ferris Olin, founding directors of the Institute of Women and Art at Rutgers. They say that the project is designed “to stimulate conversation and instill pride in the cultural heritage of New Jersey’s growing population from the Middle Eastern Diaspora.”

Programs and events include Middle Eastern women artists, filmmakers, and writers with presentation venues located in and between New Brunswick and Trenton.

The Arts Council of Princeton’s “Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art, and Society” features five artists.

Iranian-born Shiva Ahmadi paints on traditional 2-D surfaces as well as oil barrels that reference “Iranian cultural history in an ironic commentary on the oil that underlies the economies and politics not just of Iran, but of the world.”

Monira Al Qadiri, born in Kuwait, is a New York City-based performance artist who examines patriarchal values related to heterosexuality by creating self portraits in which she assumes the role of a man, mustached and wearing garb that suggests a chador or a monk’s robe.

Nezaket Ekici’s performances, installations, and videos are designed to explore her dual German-Turkish heritage. Having studied with Marina Abramovic, the Turkish-born artist uses her body as a means of expression and a component of her installations.

Hayv Kahraman, born in Baghdad, creates paintings that use conventions and approaches found in Persian miniatures, which often conjure images of women and sensuality. Yet these news works are designed to “deconstruct the Western Orientalist conception of Middle East women as exotic sex objects.”

Efrat Kedem, as a part of her work as Arts Council of Princeton’s artist-in-residence, has created “The Reality Show.” This installation uses taped video surveillance in various Princeton locations to record “the visuals of what was happening throughout Princeton in real time.”

“I’m curious about the traces left by the temporal flow of everyday life in private and public spaces and the conversions and counter-conversions of objects and materials when they move from one space to another. I mainly work with found objects,” says the Jerusalem-born artist.

“The gallery was the control room, equipped with monitors to receive the images. Visitors to the gallery were recorded inside the gallery in real time while they were viewing the monitors; the visitors’ participation comprised the performative aspect of the installation. My idea was to make the gallery space function symbolically like the beating heart of the town.”

The opening is being held in conjunction with Princeton ArtWalk, a self-guided evening of drop-in visual art activities along Nassau and Witherspoon Streets in downtown Princeton and on the Princeton University campus. The ACP’s Fertile Crescent exhibition runs through Wednesday, November 21. –– Dan Aubrey

Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art, and Society, Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street. Opens Thursday, October 4, 5 to 8 p.m. On view to November 21. Free.

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