NORTH NEWTON — The Regier Art Gallery in Luyken Fine Arts Center will host a short-term exhibit by an artist coming all the way from Pakistan just to be on the Bethel College campus.
Ayesha Durrani is a painter of miniatures and educator from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She will be at Bethel from March 9-13 at the invitation of Rachel Epp Buller, associate professor of visual arts and design.
Durrani and Epp Buller 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, which is open 9 a.m. to 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 (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 in 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 the 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," Durrani said. "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,” 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 bachelor of arts degree from Jinnah College for Women in Peshawar, Pakistan; a bachelor of fine arts degree from National College of Arts in Lahore; and a master of fine arts degree 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.