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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Shaqe Kalaj

Livonia,
USA

Shaqe Kalaj (pronounced shacha call-eye) (b.1968) is an Albanian-American mixed-media artist, born in Montenegro (former Yugoslavia). She was raised in Livonia, Michigan, and currently resides there. Shaqe defines herself as a content-based artist, where autobiography plays a role in the context of her work. Her life and perceptions are drawn upon for the content and direction of each body of work. Since art and life are synonymous for Kalaj, every aspect of life is open to inspection and is expressed through the symbolism and mood of her work. Transformation, both physical and emotional, is the guiding idea in all her work. Her work has been exhibited at galleries, universities, festivals, and museums nationally and internationally, including The Museum of Modern Art in Saitama, Japan, and most recently, the 6th UIWANG International Placard Art Festival 2008 in Kyunggido, Korea; US exhibitions have included the Minnesota National Print Biennial, Tweed Museum of Art, Birmingham, MN; 31st Annual Juried Competition, Masur Museum of Art, Monroe, LA.; solo exhibition at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, Birmingham, MI; Human Form-Photography Exhibition at the Stepping Stone Gallery, Huntington, NY; 2nd Biennial National Print Exhibition, NAU Art Museum, Flagstaff, AZ, and 27th Bradley National Print and Drawing Exhibition, Bradley University, Peoria, IL. She co-authored a book, The Unborn Muse of Shadows, in 2003.

Kalaj often uses her work to bring attention to social issues that she finds important.. For example, through her “Little Girl” series of paintings, she advocates for children and the sensitive nature of sexual abuse. Further, with the American Woman woodcut, Shaqe aims to create dialogue about gender issues. She has spoken to students at the middle school and university level about these topics. Her upcoming series about the farm industry, Eat Me, will be an analysis of our food industry through the perspective of the animals we eat, while also addressing health issues and taking a feminist view.

Feminist Artist Statement

I grew up in two cultures, a fact that has influenced my work as an artist as well as my views on feminism. I lived in America, but found myself a part of a different culture when I went to Albania. This division allowed me to see differences among cultures, specifically about gender. As a young girl, I wanted to be American. I wanted the freedom that I saw given to women in American pop culture. But at a young age, I was pressured to marry an Albanian man. I refused to marry him and I ran away from the situation. Afterward, as I immersed myself in American culture, I became very aware that women are not as free as I had initially perceived them to be. The cultural divide that I experienced was pivotal in understanding my direction as a woman and as an artist who deals with gender topics. It was through feminism that I began to understand why content and the depicting of women was a need that I had to fill. For example, the woodcut American Woman is autobiographical in nature and illustrates my perception of the struggle that exists for American women. My recent Little Girl painting depicts the confrontation of two little girls who look to the viewer to question how they have been betrayed. This is subtly implied through the symbols of the dolls. Little Girl portraits are also part of this series. They are an act of honoring women as little girls. It has been this thread of depicting women that has transformed me and my direction as an artist. As an artist, I am more concerned with content and message than medium or style. I adjust what is necessary to communicate the best I can to my audience. Regarding my content, I consider myself to be an activist.

<p>American Woman</p>

American Woman

American Woman comments on the identities and definitions of women in America, while questioning our consciousness of these factors. It uses idealized body types found in popular culture as well as normal body types found in real life. Dolls and icons are used to define and show the evolution of our current definitions of beauty and its origins.

American Woman

American Woman comments on the identities and definitions of women in America, while questioning our consciousness of these factors. It uses idealized body types found in popular culture as well as normal body types found in real life. Dolls and icons are used to define and show the evolution of our current definitions of beauty and its origins.

Dolls 1

Dolls 1 explores the use of dolls to connect historical icons with their common uses as feminine definers. Icons like Marilyn Monroe or “Mammy” appear in the same context; although they look completely different, in this context they are alike as historical dolls.

Classical Beauty Submerged

Classical Beauty Submerged contains an image of a classical sculpture. This image is the central image that forms the basis of the context of this woodcut. The image of the draped figure was once considered an ideal body depiction, but by today’s context she would be considered overweight. Below her is water and beneath the water is what we might consider the ideal body type. The scars that cover her body are the scars of this idealization.

Mythic Dream

Mythic Dream represents the awareness of being set free from that which binds. Women have been bound by physical objects such as corsets and bows. After many years, this state of being bound has been so deeply ingrained in the psyche that it takes much courage to break free. Mythic Dream is a symbol of that transformation. It is the unseen made visible. It is through awareness that we break our chains.

Little Girls

Here, I deal with the bond that little girls have with one another and the bond we have as women with our inner little girls. These bonds are essential for holding onto all of the wonderful characteristics we are born with. But in this painting, the little girls confront the viewer with all the dolls that surround them; the question that penetrates through the canvas is the question of how girls are betrayed. The marching dolls at the front of the canvas portrayed in different hues are all wearing price tags. The dolls represent both isolation and direct confrontation of what all of this means to the girls and their futures.

Chachie

This portrait is part of series that consists of 17 portraits of women that I have known, portrayed as children from ages 3 to 7. First and foremost, the portraits are an act of honoring these women, revealing an honesty of expression. I feel that I have captured their innocence, wonder, playfulness, sadness, and coyness. I have also captured their time period with the clothing that they are wearing or the lighting or background in the painting. The selected wall-paper chosen for each girl enhances that time period or is representational of some quality about the girl. All of the girls have their own significance and story, and that is how I have honored them.

Adriana

This portrait is part of series that consists of 17 portraits of women that I have known, portrayed as children from ages 3 to 7. First and foremost, the portraits are an act of honoring these women, revealing an honesty of expression. I feel that I have captured their innocence, wonder, playfulness, sadness, and coyness. I have also captured their time period with the clothing that they are wearing or the lighting or background in the painting. The selected wall-paper chosen for each girl enhances that time period or is representational of some quality about the girl. All the girls have their own significance and story, and that is how I have honored them.

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14339 Westmore st.
Livonia,
USA

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