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.

Timeline

1956
Born in Morocco
1994
Curriculum in Painting and Continuing Education, L'Ecole Des Beaux Arts, Paris, France
1999
Diploma in Photography and Installation, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
1999
B.F.A., Tufts University, Medford, MA
2003
M.F.A., School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Lives and works in New York, NY

Exhibitions

2013
Lalla Essaydi: Boundaries, Amelia Johnson Contemporary, Hongkong (Solo)
2012
Lalla Essaydi: Revisions, A Retrospective, Smithsonian African Museum of Art, Washington, DC (solo)
2012
Les Femmes du Magreb, Orientalist Museum, Qatar, Arab Emirat (solo)
2011–2012
Lalla Essaydi: Recent Works, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, GA (solo)
2011
Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc, Galerie Edwynn Houk zur Stockeregg, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
2011
Les Femmes du Maroc, Karen Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, CA (solo)
2011
Lalla Essaydi: Power of Writing, National Gallery, Tanger, Morocco (solo)
2010–2011
Lalla Essaydi: Harem, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2010
Harem, Ateliaer 21 Gallery, Casablanca, Morocco (solo)
2010
Les Femmes du Maroc, Bates Museum of Art Bates, ME (solo)
2010
Les Femmes du Maroc, Longyear Museum of Anthropology, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY (solo)
2010
Les Femmes du Maroc, Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers, New Brunswick, NJ (solo)
2009
Summer Exhibition, A Selection of Works by Gallery Artists, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY
2009
Les Femmes du Maroc, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA (solo)
2009
Les Femmes du Maroc, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait City, Kuwait (solo)
2009
Les Femmes du Maroc, Sultan Gallery, Marrakech, Morocco (solo)
2008
Embodiment, Howard Yezerski Gallery Boston, MA
2008
Indelible: The Photographs of Lalla Essaydi, First Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN
2008
Crossroads, Waterhouse & Dodd, London, UK (solo)
2008
Far From Home, North Carolina Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
2008
Presumed Innocence: Photographic Perspectives of Children, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
2008
Les Femmes du Maroc, Anya Tish Gallery, Houston, TX (solo)
2007
Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2007
Contemporary, Cool and Collected, Mint Museum of Art, in Charlotte, NC
2007
Transformation, Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, IL
2007
The Silk Road and Beyond: Travel, Trade, and Transformation, Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, IL
2006
Les Femmes du Maroc. Schneider Gallery, Chicago, IL
2006
Converging Territories, The New Britain Museum of Art, New Britain, CT
2006
Converging Territories, Joel Soroka Gallery, Aspen, CO
2006
Transgressions, Williams College Museum, Williamstown, MA
2006
Converging Territories, Jackson Fine Arts, Atlanta, GA
2006
Converging Territories, Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ
2006
NAZAR, IFA Gallery, Berlin, Germany
2005–2006
NAZAR, The IFA Gallery, Stuttgart, Germany
2005
The Painted Word, Lafayette College, Williams Center for the Arts Museum, Easton, PA
2005
Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self, Museum of Photographic ARTS, San Diego, CA
2005
Converging Territories, Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2005
Converging Territories, Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA (solo)
2005
NAZAR, Houston Fotofestival, Houston, TX
2005
The 2005 DeCordova Museum Annual Exhibitions, Lincoln, MA
2005
Rewind/Re-Cast/Review, Photography show, The Ramapo College Art Galleries, Mahwah, NJ
2005
In the Company of Women, Williams College Museum of Art, Willamstown, MA
2005
About Face: Photographic Portraits from the Collection, Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, IL
2004
8th International Photography Gathering, Le Pont Gallery, Aleppo, Syria
2004
Festival, Fries Museum: Through Arab Eyes, Leewarden, Netherlands
2004
The Melting: An Evolution of American Culture, RockefellerArt Center - Department of Visual Arts and New Media, Fredonia, NY
2004
NAZAR – Photographs from the Arab World, Noorderlicht Photofestival, Curated by Wim Melis, Leeuwarden, the Netherlands
2004
The Melting: An Evolution of American Culture, Rockefeller Arts Center, State University of New York, Fredonia, NY
2004
Lalla A. Essaydi, Schneider Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
2003
Threshold, A painting show at Mario Diacono, Ars Libri, Boston, MA (solo)
2003
Converging Territories, Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, MA (solo)
2002
The Boit, Grossman Gallery, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA (solo)
2002
Invitational Show, Karsh Photography Exhibition, MFA (solo)
2001
Photography Show, Schneider Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
2001
Annual Juried Painting Exhibition Show, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA (solo)

Public Collections

Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Kodak Museum of Art, Rochester, NY
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA
Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, Farmville, VA
Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, IL
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Kresge Art Museum, East Lansing, MI
Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH
Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX