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                                       photo : Elad Sarig

Samah Shihadi 
“Between life and death ”, 2019

Charcoal on paper 200/150 cm
Palestnian 48 

The paining between life and death, 2019, is a life-size self-portrait depicting Shihadi holding a cow skull in front of her hips and womp, by her lower abdomen, at which she gazes with contempt. Her enchanted figure is dressed in a toga of sorts, like a Greco- Roman mythological goddess or a priestess to the god Vesta and seems to have come from a sacrificial rite. Her enigmatic figure could just as easily belong to a futuristic film. Her hair recalls that of Frieda kahlo (1907-1954), an artist she admires.The link to the victim also relates to Jesus, Christianity and death. According to Shihadi the "dress" she is wearing is the same white fabric used to cover the dead, or to sew bridal dresses, thus symbolizing death as well as purity, cleanliness, new life and the future. The skull recalls the works of another artist shihadi admires, Georgia O'Keeffe (1899-1987). In O'Keeffe painting Cow skull: red, white and blue, 1931, the skull is tied to America's identity, as she perceived it when staying in new Mexico, in 1929. More than the new York cityscape, it was the desert landscape, scattered with animal bones and skulls, that O'Keeffe felt symbolized and summarized the real american spirit. The desert, it's flowers, red hills and bones lent themselves to paintings infused with a mythical tone not seen previously in her works. O'Keeffe was fascinated by the abundance of bones, which she collected and sent to her studio in new York, where the painting was made. Shihadi, following O'Keeffe, found her cow skull on the village lands.For shihadi, the cow skull symbolizes victims and sacrifice, especially related to women, which is why she places it by the womb. A symbol of death for unfertile women, considered to be unfeminine due to their inability to fulfil the expectations and dictates of the patriarchal society; unable to assume their main, and sometimes only, role in life. As in vanitas and memento mori paintings, Shihadi seeks to recall death related to fertility, to show the beautiful and ugly in them. The joy and pain of life. Life and death
Text by: Emanuela Calo

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