The conflicted living beings: The performative aspect of female bodies’ representations in Saudi painting and photography
Kattan, Lina M.
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This dissertation demonstrates how the interrelated concepts of the Real, reality, art, and gender impact values attached to representing female ‘Living Beings’ in contemporary Saudi paintings and photography. This research utilizes qualitative methods to solve problems in studies such as global feminisms, post-Panofskian iconography, and deconstruction. The interdisciplinary nature of this study highlights the intertwined relationships between the visual imagery of Saudi female artists and the religious-based prohibition regarding figuration. Through an analysis of classic and contemporary Islamic scholarly depictions of Living Beings, this study affirms the overlooked interpretations of religious scriptures that permit two-dimensional art, with exceptions of idolatry, nudity, sexuality, and reasons of luxury. This study therefore offers a critical evaluation of Saudi female art after innovatively categorizing Saudi female art into thematic strands. This dissertation investigates how Saudi women artists are challenging the cultural and religious boundaries of the Real. This study advocates that Saudi women artists tend to document shifts in cultural conceptions of identity and civilization, especially in regards to the responsibilities and choices for women. Therefore, Saudi female artists’ works focus on the positivism of that change such as the beneficial aspects of globalization. These women artists tend to utilize experimental techniques through unconventional themes. By re-visiting significant values in their lives, Saudi women can balance Arabian traditions, Saudi cultural heritage, and Islamic identity. Their feminist attitudes stem from the determination to depict an optimistic image of contemporary Saudi women, who are broad-minded and live in a modern world enriched by diversity and unconstrained by outdated traditions.