You by Sarah Maple (2007)
Sarah Maple has no problem stirring the pot. You may even say the British-Iranian artist relishes in her no holds barred view of the world. The award-winning, visual artist is pointed and fearless in her critique of various socio-political issues. What’s more, Maple tackles ideas of gender, religion, and culture, as they relate to “the status quo,” in a way that is light-hearted, satirical, and easy to discern.
The Untitled Space gallery of New York City presents, Thoughts and Prayers, the first exhibition of Maple’s art this year. The solo show, curated by gallery director Indira Cesarine, runs through February 9, 2019.
Thoughts and Prayers features many new works by the artist as well as several thoughtfully selected pieces from her previous projects. The mixed-media exhibit includes a compilation of painting, performance, photography, sculpture, collage, and video, which detail the controversial topics Maple frequents.
In the past, Maple’s lived experience has been chief among the themes that she’s handled with care. Her upbringing was a cross-cultural amalgam. The Sussex native was born in 1985 to an Iranian Muslim mother from Kenya and a British Christian father. Maple was raised Muslim by her mother and received a Catholic school education. She has found that her dichotomous Muslim and Western identity is often at odds with one another. As an artist, she has felt compelled to communicate these conflicting relationships via her pro-feminist, guerilla body of work.
With Thoughts and Prayers, Maple is driven by more than her own self-expression. The title of the show references the generic condolences politicians far too often recite to the public in spoken words or tweets in the wake of a mass shooting. Maple is interested in exploring the US gun violence phenomenon and the “hollow and insincere,” response it often elicits.
Inaction by Sarah Maple (2012)
Inaction (2012), a vinyl on mirror piece states in all caps: “INACTION IS A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION.” The work echoes the aesthetic of fellow feminist artist Jenny Holzer, who is known for her pithy truisms, brandished on billboards and flyers and projected onto the facades of iconic buildings throughout the world. The work engages viewers to literally reflect on Maple’s statement. It demands you to consider your role within society and question whether you have been an active or inactive participant. Moreover, it is a challenge to the lawmakers who seem to only offer up “thoughts and prayers,” rather than actual solutions.
Maple’s writes: “I am interested in how a lack of action directly and/or indirectly inflicts suffering and potential violence on its citizens.”
Go Home by Sarah Maple (2016)
Additionally, Maple has meditated on many of the parallels between the US and the UK as they relate to her immigrant background. The election of President Donald Trump in the US on the heels of the Brexit vote is of great interest to her.
One of Maple’s most recent works, Go Home (2016), seems to illustrate the complexities of her identity. The multimedia work is comprised of two desk globes, the kind you might find in a classroom or library, with the words “Go” and “Home” scrawled in graffiti-like, black acrylic paint on their surfaces. This piece, in particular, is a perfect example of how Maple wastes no time mincing words. She captures the xenophobic remarks spouted by many citizens with anti-immigrant sentiments during the Brexit vote and the 2016 US Presidential election. In the process, she challenges the remarks by displaying the totality of the world and the arbitrary national borders that have delineated it.
Taken as a whole Thoughts and Prayers, demonstrates Maple’s unshakeable resolve to generate discourse on issues that matter most to her.
Thoughts and Prayers is the first in a series of exhibitions hosted by The Untitled Space throughout 2019. The gallery plans to present more shows that align with its mission to promote women in art and provide a platform for the voices of the under-represented.
Text by Mac McDonough