Art Windsor-Essex to host protest art exhibition this weekend

Art Windsor-Essex to host protest art exhibition this weekend

A couple dozen visual artists are coming together this Saturday for an exhibition focused on the oppression of women, curated by a Windsor woman who escaped Iran three years ago.

Maryam Safarzadeh came to Canada after leaving Iran with her son and daughter to escape the country’s government.

The visual artist made it her goal to curate a gallery of protest art to shine a light on the plight of oppressed women around the world, including her home country of Iran.

“I’m in a free country. If my people, if women can’t talk, I’m gonna be their voice,” said Safarzadeh, who points out women who do this in Iran face prison time.

“You shouldn’t have a filter, you should just express your feelings, talk about what you want to talk about,” she said.

Her show “Women, Life, Freedom” brings together 27 artists from all over the globe, each with a story to tell.

One of those artists is Kobra Safi, who escaped the Taliban rule of Afghanistan six months ago. The trained surgeon started painting while in a refugee camp and the passion turned into a great outlet for her pain and sorrow.

This weekend, Safi is taking part in her first art exhibition.

“We have the same pain and that’s why we work together and we made the art about ourselves,” said Safi, whose painting depicts women of various professions hanging from a tree while the Taliban look upon them with pointed guns.

“I want them to know what is going inside of me and what is going on with Afghan woman,” she said. “That’s why I like to express something inside the paintings for them to know their stories.”

Asaph Maurer has a completely different story. The Windsor artist explains he was part of an extremist Christian Cult that moved around between Mexico, the United States and India. He managed to escape 11 years ago.

“The minute that I heard about this exhibition from Maryam, I instantly related to the concept of suppression of freedom of expression, whether that be through art or through dress,” he said.

Maurer painted a picture of a woman who was shot in the eye for speaking up. It symbolizes oppression and control, he said, through violence, noting it’s an uncomfortable reality that people need to see.

“A lot of these images are not beautiful, scenic landscapes that you can put in your living room,” he admits. “However, I think that one way to get involved is to attend exhibitions like this and feel the discomfort.”

Judy Chappus drew her inspiration from a woman she met at a public shower. Chappus said the woman agreed to be photographed and has since become the subject of many of her paintings. This one fits, Chappus said, because she exuded confidence, power and presence.

“She’s almost the opposite of what is expected of women in Iran,” said Chappus. “I liked how I can associate this with taking the hijab off because I feel like if women did that, they would just release all this incredible power.”

Women, Life, Freedom goes on display at Art Windsor-Essex Saturday, April 1 from 12 to 5 p.m. with the official program running 2 to 5 p.m.

The art pieces will be on display at Sho Art Studios for the two weeks following.

Safarzadeh is excited to lay it all out on the line.

“I can’t go back to Iran, because they’re going to arrest me for sure. But I don’t care,” she said.

“This is supporting these women. And this is about talking about the truth, even it’s not beautiful.”