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Artist to bring work and thoughts on beauty, gender and culture to campus

March 2nd, 2020

"Celebration" by Ayesha Durrani

Ayesha Durrani's exhibit of miniature paintings, "Secrets of an Inner World," is in the Regier Gallery in Luyken Fine Arts Center just through this Friday.

Durrani, who teaches in Pakistan's National College of Arts, is spending a week at Bethel at the invitation of Rachel Epp Buller, associate professor of visual arts and design. The two became friends in graduate school at the Transart Institute.

“Ayesha is an accomplished artist, and a professor at the National College of Arts, and I knew that students would be able to learn much from her,” Epp Buller said. “She is trained as a miniature painter, a tradition that students won’t know much about.

“I will also say that Ayesha’s work is very highly regarded in Pakistan. To prepare for her visit, students will be reading selections from a number of texts, including Art and Polemic in Pakistan, that discuss her work in detail.”

During her week on the Bethel campus, Durrani will exhibit “Secrets of an Inner World” (new work) in the Regier Art Gallery (open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, with special extended hours Tuesday, March 10).

On March 10, Durrani will give a public talk, “Miniature Painting: The Art of Beauty,” at 7 p.m. in the Administration Building chapel (this is a different location from most Regier Gallery artist presentations).

Following the lecture, there will be a reception for Durrani at the gallery.

Durrani, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Fine Arts at National College of Arts, Rawalpindi, will also spend significant time with Bethel students during her week on campus. 

She will conduct paper marbling workshops with the Painting and Advanced Drawing classes; meet with Women and Gender in Art History to discuss gender and the cultural issues raised in her paintings and in the work of other contemporary Pakistani artists; and talk about Islam with seniors in Basic Issues of Faith and Life and students in the course Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“I’m very excited to visit Bethel for many reasons,” Durrani said. “First of all, I’ve always loved coming to USA. I’ve been coming here for shows and residencies since 2006. I’ve always received so much love and respect here.

“However, for me the most important reason is to present miniature painting to the West. It is a very rich traditional art form that is not very well known in the USA, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to present my work and meet new people and share this wonderful art form.

“As artists, we have the power to reach people and build bridges between cultures and regions. People are the same everywhere and I hope to share my ideas with other artists, students and the community of Bethel.”

“Over the years that I have known Ayesha, I have been impressed by the ways in which she is able to navigate and subtly subvert some of the gendered constraints and expectations in Pakistani culture through her artwork,” Epp Buller said.

“I think Westerners too often assume that women in Islam must be oppressed, but of course there is a great deal of complexity, and Ayesha’s work often speaks to that. I hope that she will help students see beyond their surface assumptions about a culture, and dig deeper to find out more.”

“I would like to invite everyone for my artist talk and presentation [on March 10],” Durrani said. “I’m sure even non-artists will find it interesting. 

“They will also be able to meet a Pakistani woman who is a mother, artist, teacher and feminist, a combination I’m sure they haven’t encountered a lot.

“Through miniature painting, I highlight cultural gender imbalance and how women of my region are countering it. 

“Belonging to a region steeped in traditional practices that give a negative view of my culture, I feel that I can present a true perspective of how things are evolving towards a more progressive future.” 

Durrani has a B.A. degree from Jinnah College for Women in Peshawar, Pakistan, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from National College of Arts, Lahore, and an M.F.A. from the Transart Institute of Plymouth University, England.

Her work has been exhibited in galleries in London, New York, New Delhi, Dubai, France and across Pakistan.

Fiscal sponsors for Durrani’s visit to Bethel are the Greer Fine Arts Endowment, the Lena Waltner Visiting Artist Endowment Fund within the visual arts and design department at Bethel, and the Bethel College Women’s Association’s Carolyn Schultz Lectureship Endowment. 

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel is the highest ranked Kansas private college, at #12, in Washington Monthly, Top 200 Bachelor’s Colleges; ranks at #23 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; stands at #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities listed by lendEDU as “Best for Financial Aid”; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and earned its second-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star gold award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2019-20. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu  

 

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