By Paul Gessell
The new show at SAW Gallery (Extreme Self: Art in the Radical First Person) is billed as taking “a look at provocative forms of self-representation in contemporary art.” In other words, this is a show of provocative self-portraits by 10 artists from Ottawa and beyond.
In the case of Ottawa artist Shahla Bahrami, her photographic self-portraits are more provocative — at least in some places — than she ever expected. Bahrami is originally from Iran and much of her art practice revolves around images of women swathed in the head-to-toe black chadors worn by conservative women in her home country.
For the SAW show, Bahrami has 10 self-portraits in different poses. In each, she wears a chador with only a few fingers or a bit of nose exposed. Oversized, colourful flies buzz around her. The flies refer to a Persian poem about conniving people who pursue other people, just like flies, to take advantage of their “sweetness.”