BMAC hosts art talk with Samira Abbassy on April 3

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) invites the public to explore the idea of the human body as a spiritual, psychological, and biological vehicle during an online conversation with artist Samira Abbassy and BMAC Director of Exhibitions Sarah Freeman on Wednesday, April 3, at 7 p.m.

Abbassy will discuss her work currently on view at the museum in the exhibit "Out of Body," which Freeman describes as "a connection between the physical and the intangible," and "a collection of objects that feels precious and mysterious, yet also domestic and very human."

Abbassy, who was born in Iran and grew up in London, says she finds inspiration in the concept of faith healing, or remote psychic healing. In her paintings, drawings, and sculpture, she references imagery from 11th- to 17th-century Islamic medical and anatomical manuscripts, as well as 15th-century European alchemical symbols that combine psychic phenomena with physical realities.

These primary sources "transcend the corporeal and hint at attempts to locate the soul," Abbassy says. "The body becomes a vehicle of psychological metaphors, portraying embodied conflicts and dilemmas."

Among the images that emerge in Abbassy's BMAC exhibit is a disembodied hand reaching into a wound - an idea adapted from the Gospel of Thomas, in which the doubting disciple probes Christ's wound with his hand, seeking proof of the spirit of divinity.

Abbassy also references medieval Christian reliquaries - "peculiar artifacts," she calls them - that present the human remains of holy saints as a way of encouraging faith. Mortal specimens like hair, bones, teeth, and body fluids are also part of sacred traditions such as Santeria, Voodoo, and Animism. The piece titled "Medical Reliquaries" goes so far as to include Abbassy's own blood, extracted during a surgical procedure. The overall effect, Freeman says, is that of "an altar of sorts."

Even Abbassy's artmaking process is imbued with spirituality. "The act of creation requires a suspension of participation in the physical plane in order to receive suggestions from the unconscious," Abbassy explains. "I make my work in full participation with the mysterium tremendum - also known as the "numinous" - where I can safely confront my demons, my gods, and the liminal between."

Abbassy graduated from Canterbury College of Art, exhibited her work in London, and moved to New York in 1998, where she helped to set up the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts and the EFA Studio Center. Her work is in private and public collections worldwide, and has been featured at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The British Museum, and in numerous galleries in London, New York, and Dubai.

The talk will take place on Zoom, and admission is free. Register at to receive the Zoom link. For accessibility questions and requests, email [email protected] or call 802-257-0124, ext. 101.

This Arts item was submitted to The Commons.

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