Labkhand Olfatmanesh & Gazelle Samizay
Artist Statement & Bio
Woven is a collaboration between Labkhand Olfatmanesh and Gazelle Samizay and is comprised of photographs, collages, and video. The particularities of our experiences as women of Afghan and Iranian heritage fed our collaboration, though Samizay grew up in the US and Olfatmanesh grew up in Iran.
We are interested in the way cultural expectations and the effects of war transcend borders and affect women despite their location. In Bepar, the shattering effects of war and patriarchy on a young girl’s journey to adulthood are illuminated through the game of hopscotch (named “lay lay" in Iran and “joz baazi" in Afghanistan). The protagonist relives the personal and political moments of her past, such as war, marriage, generational trauma, and gendered social expectations.
Our photographic collages simultaneously reveal and hide, resisting a facile consumption of our identities and thus challenging stereotypes of women from the SWANA region. The multitude of elements in each collage reflects the confusion and conflict we feel as citizens of the US, a nation that inflicts violence on our home countries in the form of war, occupation, and economic sanctions. We reenact violence on the photographs themselves, dissecting, crushing, and reconfiguring past experiences into creative expression. Bodies are fragmented and images are repeated by photographing prints in different configurations, reflecting the transmutation of memories or trauma. Through this process we gain a better understanding of one another as women from sister countries, while exercising power in the way we know how, as immigrants living in the land of our colonizer.
Labkhand Olfatmanesh’s photo and video work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions, including at Photo London UK; Rencontres d’Arles, France; Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles; the Culver City Arts Foundation; the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; and the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. She was also awarded the LensCulture Portrait Awards Jurors’ Pick and received first place from the Los Angeles Center of Photography. She is a board member at Level Ground and an artist-in-residence at Side Street Project, Los Angeles. She was recently awarded the 2021 ACTIVATE Innovators Fellowship in Los Angeles, CA.
Gazelle Samizay’s work has been exhibited internationally, including at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; the California Museum of Photography, Riverside; and the de Young Museum, San Francisco. Her pieces are part of the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY; and En Foco, NY. She has received numerous awards and residencies, including from the Princess Grace Foundation, NY; Craft Contemporary, Los Angeles; the Arizona Community Foundation, Phoenix; Level Ground, Los Angeles; the Torrance Art Museum; and Side Street Project, Los Angeles. She received her MFA from the University of Arizona.
"Bepar (Hop)," 2019. Video, 6 minutes. Edition 1/5 + 2 A.P.
"Warning/Greeting from the Ancestors," 2021. Archival inkjet prints and pin, 6 x 15 inches. Edition 1/5 + 2 A.P.
"Making the Road Home," 2021. Archival inkjet print, 20 x 24 inches. Edition 1/5 + 2 A.P.
"All That Remains," 2021. Archival inkjet print, 22 x 30 niches. Edition 1/5 + 2 A.P.
"The earth has many secrets," 2021. Archival inkjet prints and picture frame, 20 x 30 inches. Edition 1/5 + 2 A.P.
"One revolution," 2021. Archival inkjet print, 12 x 18 inches. Edition 1/5 + 2 A.P.
"Hopscotch Floor Installation," dimensions variable.