Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, b.1956) is a painter and photographer. Her work focuses on the Arab female identity in a 19th-century Orientalist style. She is well-known for hand-drawn Arabic calligraphy paintings done with henna on different types of surfaces, such as fabric, bodies, and even walls. Her style reflects her training and expertise in constructing intricately set Figurative compositions. Born and raised in Morocco, Essaydi lived in Saudi Arabia before relocating to the United States. She studied art at the L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France, between 1990 and 1994. In 1999, she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Tufts University in Medford, MA. She later received a Masters of Fine Arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA, in 2003. The artist also holds a diploma in Photography from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Inspired by 19th-century Orientalist works, Essaydi is known for paintings that combine Islamic calligraphy and representations of the female body with Western painting traditions. She frequently addresses the complexities of female identity in the Arab traditions from a personal perspective. Her works are a reflection of her Moroccan girlhood, depicting a woman caught between the past and the present. Her paintings explore Orientalist mythology through imagery from a Modernist point of view. Essaydi has also worked in other forms of media including video, analog photography, and film installation.
Some of the artist’s famous collections include Revisions, which is a selection of photographs, paintings, and multimedia installations, Converging Territories, which is a series of paintings set at her family home in Morocco, and Les Femmes du Maroc, which she keeps in her studio in Boston, MA. Essaydi’s paintings and photographic works are exhibited at the Schneider Gallery in Chicago, IL, the Edwynn Hook Gallery in New York, NY, and the Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston. Her collection can also be found at the Fries Museum in the Netherlands. She currently lives and works in New York and Marrakesh, Morocco.