Maïmouna Guerresi – Inner Constellations
Inner Constellations is the first published book of photography by Italian-born artist Maïmouna Guerresi, whose iconic, figurative photographs are celebrated around the world, both for their beauty and their melding of diverse cultural and religious influences. Raised in Catholic Italy, Maïmouna traveled to Senegal in 1991 and was so taken by the country’s spiritual traditions that she converted to Islam. Since this spiritual transformation, Maïmouna’s work has become infused with the rich history and iconography of Islam, with a particular emphasis on Sufi philosophy, which contends that all of the world’s religions originate from a single divine source.
From this place of universal respect and understanding, Maïmouna borrows freely from the symbols and mythology of the world’s great religious traditions, blending elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity together in photographs that transcend the sum of their parts. In all of her photographs, Maïmouna treats the human body as sacred dwelling place, “the temple of the soul.” In particular, she celebrates the divine power of the feminine form in places where women have historically been marginalized. Many of her female subjects are transformed into powerful symbols of the feminine divine, altars to the most primordial act of creativity.
Draping her figures in exquisite, sculptural garments, many of which the artist creates by hand in collaboration with her subjects, Maïmouna references universal archetypes, as well as specific religious rituals. These sources are present in the various elements of her photograms, from the towering minaret-hats she crafts, to the gentle strength in the subjects’ symbolically painted faces. The photographs in this book are related to each other without becoming redundant; some feature cavernous, veiled spaces of emptiness fabricated from black cloth, others draw attention to the presence of everyday objects within the frame. The universe of Maïmouna is as much the result of chemistry between cultural and religious influences as the fusion of different artistic languages, creating a new visual mythology that both.
Maïmouna Guerresi is an Italo-Senegalese multimedia artist working with photography, sculpture, video, and installation. She was born in Italy and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. Maïmouna turned to photography after a period of experimentation with painting and drawing. Early in her career she was invited to show in the Italian pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1982 and 1986), the Rome Quadrennial (1986), as well as at Documenta K18 (1987) in Kassel, Germany. Maïmouna has been extensively exhibited in solo and group shows all over Europe, Africa, the United States, Asia, and the Middle East. Maïmouna lives and works between Italy and Senegal.
|Andi Potamkin, Michket Krifa, Rosa Maria Falvo