NOT-SO-SEXY With Alymamah Rashed
Getting intimate at-home with the Kuwaiti visual artist.

Not-So-Sexy is an on-going series on Miilkiina.com profiling creatives around the world and their real, raw, and “not-so-sexy” work-from-home experiences. 

This week, we’re getting intimate with Alymamah Rashed (@aacanvas), the Kuwaiti visual artist whose surrealist paintings investigate the discourse of her own body as a Muslima Cyborg. We had to ask her everything from what drew her to painting, her daily routine, and finding inspiration these days to fuel her creative process. Keep reading for more Alymamah. 

What does your space look like?

My space is on the roof of my family’s home.
It transformed from a storage room to a Moroccan diwan and then into a studio space.
I wanted to preserve all of its previous stages prior to landing on its final design. 

I turned an existing structure in the storage room into a coffee station and display for the knick knacks I have collected over the past 2 years and the collaborative work of art my parents have made when they first got married.
I chose to preserve the ceiling’s mural which was initially painted for the Moroccan Diwan. It centralizes myself, my work and the energy of the studio. It’s a symbol of recollection and unity. 

I preserved the stains and leakages of my work on my wooden floors. Each stain comes from a specific work and I am able to identify them through memory. A stain extends the presence of the work even when it departs from the studio.

What initially drew you to art?

Instinctive: I was drawn to creating art ever since I was in kindergarten. I remember feeling extremely happy whenever I would see the box of colored pencils being brought to art class and I would just start drawing and writing poems we’d recite in class. I would then go back home and find my mom gifting me a new coloring book with a new set of crayons, watercolors, or colored pencils. My dad would then join me in the afternoon by improvising humorous stories and illustrating them with me. 

 

Discipline: I grew up knowing I wanted to make art and that was it. I never had a particular school in mind, but I knew I wanted to study abroad, specifically in the United States, since my brother, Khaled, was studying in Boston at the time. I was extremely timid, fearful, and anxious when I was younger and I knew I had to save myself by throwing myself in a completely new culture, environment, and perhaps a foreign system of perception. I had to rewire myself into myself. After applying to multiple schools, I wanted to go to the School of Visual Arts in New York and my sense of construction and deconstruction started from there. I learned to break my fear from choosing to paint with large brushes rather than tiny brushes to encountering a nude model in a drawing class for the first time. I learned to construct my art language once I relocated myself into a city that helps you rediscover your soul’s essence rather than just your way of seeing art.

Leakage of I Have Disappeared Into You

Why did you choose paint as your main medium?

I paint to elevate the soul of my storytelling. A painterly gesture is able to embody the intangibility of literacy and sensation through the materiality of paint. I am able to challenge my curiosity in a similar manner as Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs”, a work I grew to admire conceptually ever since I went to New York. I am able to perceive the representation of the sensational in different degrees within my practice: the subject, the image of the subject, and the words of the subject. My subjecthood derives from the story of my body as an Arab woman, the image of the subject is the varying ways of how I perceived my body from different windows of time, and the words of the subject live within the work’s title and within the dialogue that takes place within my studio visits. 

What does Muslima Cyborg mean?

The Muslima Cyborg is a formula I constructed that collides two bodies: the fleshed body and the thobed body (Thob Al Salat is the prayer garment that Muslim women wear during prayer). I wanted to utilize the term “cyborg” by reclaiming it through spiritual intelligence rather than artificial intelligence. In other words, I am interested questioning how spiritual sensations situate themselves within prayer and outside of prayer, within the body and outside of the body, and within the past and outside of the past. The reason with selecting the thob and my fleshed body derived from a sensation I have had within a prayer that took place after a long studio day while I was in grad school. I missed all of my prayers during that day and I had to pray all at once. After the Isha’ prayer, I noticed how the fabric of the thob transcended its material presence as fabric. 

What kind of artist are you? Does your space get messy when creating? Or are you super neat?

I create instinctively in terms of my process. My process is driven by my sensations, emotions, and energy. I move naturally with my internality and I leak it whenever I feel like I need to into the space before the work itself. The process of creating a work leaves its marks on my walls, floors, and my clothes. The genes and the makeup of the work, colliding the tangible and intangible, lives within the space itself. I am able to identify each mark in relation to its work. The elemental aspect of the work is preserved within the marks and gestures found in the studio. In other words, yes, it is messy. But, I’d like to say it’s a systematic mess.

Where do you find inspiration?

I see it within the currents of my days. 

With(out):

I find it in a daisy planted on the sidewalk of my neighborhood. 

I find it in a broken glass compartment of an ottoman flower hiding underneath my car.

I find it in a black and yellow parking pole located in Kuwait City that’s shaped like Minakari vase.

I find it within the floral fabric poles located in Souq Al Safat, the fabric district in Kuwait.

With(in):

I find it between my power and my fragility.

I find it between a failed romance and a new bloom.

I find it between my revival and reclamation. 

I find it between my love and yours.  

Details from I Build My Love To Lose Myself In You

The hardest part of being a female, Muslim visual artist?

Learning and accepting that many individuals from the industry might want to tokenize your race, culture, and practice whether you’re an artist, a curator, or even a gallery assistant. I learned to not only defend myself from this reality, but to know how to articulate it in a sense where their gaze does not bleed into your own perception of yourself. In other words, you learn how to defy self-censorship, self-orientaliztion, and self-victimization internally and externally. I think as a Muslima artist, I had to learn how I am situated outside of my culture in ways that I do not wish anyone would go through. However, these hardships have pulled me towards my urgency that grows infinitely with every passing day to the extent that I think this lifetime is not enough. I am eternally grateful to feel that everyday. 

Do you have a daily routine, if so walk us through it.

Weekdays:

 

I usually start my day by going to Sadu House, a museum in Kuwait City that preserves Kuwait’s textile heritage, as program director. I work there because it’s my way of giving back to the arts within my country outside of my practice. I am able to meet with artists and creatives locally and regionally through this platform and weave them closer to one another. I then proceed by having lunch with my family and maybe take a one hour nap if I did not get enough sleep the night before. I then go to the studio to observe and work. I of course have some fresh coffee on the side. I then end my day by having dinner with my parents, light up a candle, read, and go to bed. 

 

Weekends:

 

I like to save my weekend for myself. I start my day by having breakfast with a friend or with my parents. I then go to a coffee shop, write, and possibly meet up with a dear friend or meet someone I have not met before. I then head back home to have lunch and rest in the late afternoon by having tea with my mom. Later, I head to the studio and paint until 10 pm. On Saturdays, I mentor a student and have a studio visit with a fellow artist or a friend. I also treat myself to an occasional cheeseburger on the weekend. 

When I Escaped from the Sound of Your Hills (Your Name Is Upon My Tongue)

Details from I Have Disappeared Into You (It Tastes Like Honey)

What are your work rituals?

Black Columbian coffee before I start anything and a moment of observing my emotions, my surroundings, and my thoughts. 

One thing that has brought you peace of mind amidst the current crisis? 

We are in this together. 

Open up and challenge your accessibility to your vulnerability. As much as I think that I am hyper aware and vocal about my emotions, I sometimes need to remind myself to unlearn the attitude of “toughening it out”. I am able to grow further when I push myself to share with a trusted person that I might have not been feeling great during the past few days. I learned to abandon the idea of thinking that I might be burdening a person if I open up to them about my struggles. I learned to radiate what I offer to others within myself.

Prayer and The Pink Carnation (I Bloom For You)

How do you like to unwind and pass time these days?

One on one coffee with the right person. 

Lighting up a candle and listening to the xx record at the end of my day.

Going on city walks with my mom at night. 

Favorite day or memory?

During my first week of grad school when I found myself opening up about multiple racist traumas I have encountered between 2016 and 2017 in New York City. I have kept these traumas within me and I found myself speaking about them in a critical thinking class, taught by one of my favorite mentors from grad school, Genevieve Hyacinthe. We were all asked to speak briefly about our practices and works. I found myself opening up for the first time and finally feeling utterly safe in the city. Since then, I have expanded and challenged my vocality. 

Where do you feel most at home?

One on one conversations with my parents, friends, and loved ones. 

NOT-SO-SEXY With Alymamah Rashed
Getting intimate at-home with the Kuwaiti visual artist.

Not-So-Sexy is an on-going series on Miilkiina.com profiling creatives around the world and their real, raw, and “not-so-sexy” work-from-home experiences. 

This week, we’re getting intimate with Alymamah Rashed (@aacanvas), the Kuwaiti visual artist whose surrealist paintings investigate the discourse of her own body as a Muslima Cyborg. We had to ask her everything from what drew her to painting, her daily routine, and finding inspiration these days to fuel her creative process. Keep reading for more Alymamah. 

What does your space look like?

My space is on the roof of my family’s home.
It transformed from a storage room to a Moroccan diwan and then into a studio space.
I wanted to preserve all of its previous stages prior to landing on its final design. 

I turned an existing structure in the storage room into a coffee station and display for the knick knacks I have collected over the past 2 years and the collaborative work of art my parents have made when they first got married.
I chose to preserve the ceiling’s mural which was initially painted for the Moroccan Diwan. It centralizes myself, my work and the energy of the studio. It’s a symbol of recollection and unity. 

I preserved the stains and leakages of my work on my wooden floors. Each stain comes from a specific work and I am able to identify them through memory. A stain extends the presence of the work even when it departs from the studio.

What initially drew you to art?

Instinctive: I was drawn to creating art ever since I was in kindergarten. I remember feeling extremely happy whenever I would see the box of colored pencils being brought to art class and I would just start drawing and writing poems we’d recite in class. I would then go back home and find my mom gifting me a new coloring book with a new set of crayons, watercolors, or colored pencils. My dad would then join me in the afternoon by improvising humorous stories and illustrating them with me. 

 

Discipline: I grew up knowing I wanted to make art and that was it. I never had a particular school in mind, but I knew I wanted to study abroad, specifically in the United States, since my brother, Khaled, was studying in Boston at the time. I was extremely timid, fearful, and anxious when I was younger and I knew I had to save myself by throwing myself in a completely new culture, environment, and perhaps a foreign system of perception. I had to rewire myself into myself. After applying to multiple schools, I wanted to go to the School of Visual Arts in New York and my sense of construction and deconstruction started from there. I learned to break my fear from choosing to paint with large brushes rather than tiny brushes to encountering a nude model in a drawing class for the first time. I learned to construct my art language once I relocated myself into a city that helps you rediscover your soul’s essence rather than just your way of seeing art.

Leakage of I Have Disappeared Into You

Why did you choose paint as your main medium?

I paint to elevate the soul of my storytelling. A painterly gesture is able to embody the intangibility of literacy and sensation through the materiality of paint. I am able to challenge my curiosity in a similar manner as Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs”, a work I grew to admire conceptually ever since I went to New York. I am able to perceive the representation of the sensational in different degrees within my practice: the subject, the image of the subject, and the words of the subject. My subjecthood derives from the story of my body as an Arab woman, the image of the subject is the varying ways of how I perceived my body from different windows of time, and the words of the subject live within the work’s title and within the dialogue that takes place within my studio visits. 

What does Muslima Cyborg mean?

The Muslima Cyborg is a formula I constructed that collides two bodies: the fleshed body and the thobed body (Thob Al Salat is the prayer garment that Muslim women wear during prayer). I wanted to utilize the term “cyborg” by reclaiming it through spiritual intelligence rather than artificial intelligence. In other words, I am interested questioning how spiritual sensations situate themselves within prayer and outside of prayer, within the body and outside of the body, and within the past and outside of the past. The reason with selecting the thob and my fleshed body derived from a sensation I have had within a prayer that took place after a long studio day while I was in grad school. I missed all of my prayers during that day and I had to pray all at once. After the Isha’ prayer, I noticed how the fabric of the thob transcended its material presence as fabric. 

What kind of artist are you? Does your space get messy when creating? Or are you super neat?

I create instinctively in terms of my process. My process is driven by my sensations, emotions, and energy. I move naturally with my internality and I leak it whenever I feel like I need to into the space before the work itself. The process of creating a work leaves its marks on my walls, floors, and my clothes. The genes and the makeup of the work, colliding the tangible and intangible, lives within the space itself. I am able to identify each mark in relation to its work. The elemental aspect of the work is preserved within the marks and gestures found in the studio. In other words, yes, it is messy. But, I’d like to say it’s a systematic mess.

Where do you find inspiration?

I see it within the currents of my days. 

With(out):

I find it in a daisy planted on the sidewalk of my neighborhood. 

I find it in a broken glass compartment of an ottoman flower hiding underneath my car.

I find it in a black and yellow parking pole located in Kuwait City that’s shaped like Minakari vase.

I find it within the floral fabric poles located in Souq Al Safat, the fabric district in Kuwait.

With(in):

I find it between my power and my fragility.

I find it between a failed romance and a new bloom.

I find it between my revival and reclamation. 

I find it between my love and yours.  

Details from I Build My Love To Lose Myself In You

The hardest part of being a female, Muslim visual artist?

Learning and accepting that many individuals from the industry might want to tokenize your race, culture, and practice whether you’re an artist, a curator, or even a gallery assistant. I learned to not only defend myself from this reality, but to know how to articulate it in a sense where their gaze does not bleed into your own perception of yourself. In other words, you learn how to defy self-censorship, self-orientaliztion, and self-victimization internally and externally. I think as a Muslima artist, I had to learn how I am situated outside of my culture in ways that I do not wish anyone would go through. However, these hardships have pulled me towards my urgency that grows infinitely with every passing day to the extent that I think this lifetime is not enough. I am eternally grateful to feel that everyday. 

Do you have a daily routine, if so walk us through it.

Weekdays:

 

I usually start my day by going to Sadu House, a museum in Kuwait City that preserves Kuwait’s textile heritage, as program director. I work there because it’s my way of giving back to the arts within my country outside of my practice. I am able to meet with artists and creatives locally and regionally through this platform and weave them closer to one another. I then proceed by having lunch with my family and maybe take a one hour nap if I did not get enough sleep the night before. I then go to the studio to observe and work. I of course have some fresh coffee on the side. I then end my day by having dinner with my parents, light up a candle, read, and go to bed. 

 

Weekends:

 

I like to save my weekend for myself. I start my day by having breakfast with a friend or with my parents. I then go to a coffee shop, write, and possibly meet up with a dear friend or meet someone I have not met before. I then head back home to have lunch and rest in the late afternoon by having tea with my mom. Later, I head to the studio and paint until 10 pm. On Saturdays, I mentor a student and have a studio visit with a fellow artist or a friend. I also treat myself to an occasional cheeseburger on the weekend. 

When I Escaped from the Sound of Your Hills (Your Name Is Upon My Tongue)

Details from I Have Disappeared Into You (It Tastes Like Honey)

What are your work rituals?

Black Columbian coffee before I start anything and a moment of observing my emotions, my surroundings, and my thoughts. 

One thing that has brought you peace of mind amidst the current crisis? 

We are in this together. 

Open up and challenge your accessibility to your vulnerability. As much as I think that I am hyper aware and vocal about my emotions, I sometimes need to remind myself to unlearn the attitude of “toughening it out”. I am able to grow further when I push myself to share with a trusted person that I might have not been feeling great during the past few days. I learned to abandon the idea of thinking that I might be burdening a person if I open up to them about my struggles. I learned to radiate what I offer to others within myself.

Prayer and The Pink Carnation (I Bloom For You)

How do you like to unwind and pass time these days?

One on one coffee with the right person. 

Lighting up a candle and listening to the xx record at the end of my day.

Going on city walks with my mom at night. 

Favorite day or memory?

During my first week of grad school when I found myself opening up about multiple racist traumas I have encountered between 2016 and 2017 in New York City. I have kept these traumas within me and I found myself speaking about them in a critical thinking class, taught by one of my favorite mentors from grad school, Genevieve Hyacinthe. We were all asked to speak briefly about our practices and works. I found myself opening up for the first time and finally feeling utterly safe in the city. Since then, I have expanded and challenged my vocality. 

Where do you feel most at home?

One on one conversations with my parents, friends, and loved ones. 

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