30 March 2022 On the Wall is PCG’s annual commission of large-scale artworks applied directly to the walls of Reilly Gallery. As part of an interdisciplinary initiative at the College to explore and develop new scholarship on the rich traditions of the mural format, Sheida Soleimani, an artist based in Providence, transforms the exhibition space to explore her unique family history.
Sheida Soleimani, What a Revolutionary Must Know, فداییان خلق, 2022. Archival pigment print, 40 x 30 inches. Courtesy Denny Dimin Gallery, NYC; Edel Assanti, London; and Harlan Levy Gallery, Brussels.
Over the last decade, Sheida Soleimani has used tableau photography—which includes figures and objects arranged for picturesque or dramatic effect—to highlight critical perspectives on geopolitics, especially those between the greater Middle East and the United States. The artwork in On the Wall: Sheida Soleimani, subtitled “Ghostwriter” by the artist, epitomizes that mission with visual accounts of her parents’ life in Iran and the United States as political activists and refugees. It is also the first time Soleimani has ever explicitly explored her family’s history in her artwork.
References to pro-democracy activists of the Iranian Revolution and their rich iconography permeate the show’s many layers. Fabric curtains, silkscreened with a pattern inspired by an ancient Persian version of the luck-based game Snakes and Ladders, frame the gallery as a theatre of memory. Wall and floor murals map a courtyard as remembered and sketched by the artist’s mother. In Soleimani’s signature style, the photographs collapse space and subject matter into densely layered images, half documenting, half obscuring her subjects’ likenesses as well as their backgrounds. As a ghostwriter of her parents’ experience, Soleimani pulls together collective memories and personal narratives to portray how the political past and its residual effects remain ever-present.
On the Wall: Sheida Soleimani is the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition in her hometown of Providence. Lead support for the exhibition is generously provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional funding is provided by Providence College’s Office of Academic Affairs and Department of Art and Art History.