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Sarah Ahmad

Sarah Ahmad

My work is an artistic inquiry into universal identity and the human condition that transcends borders and categorizations. It encompass themes of identity, migration, displacement, belonging, healing, rebuilding life, and what it means to create a space for oneself in the world. It evolves from my own cross-cultural identities as an immigrant from Pakistan, as a South Asian, as an American, as a woman, and as a single mother. My identity is fragmented. However, beyond the contexts of cultures and places, transcending boundaries and categorizations, time stands still. In these moments, in the rhythm of creation, I feel free. Imbuing this freedom into my work, I investigate interconnectedness through common patterns in the human body, nature, and in the cosmos. I create spaces that can serve as sanctuaries and retreats from the anxieties and upheavals of life, sites to experience wonderment, meditation, and peace.

My installations are made from screen carvings of geometric patterns appropriated from Islamic art and architecture that represent the aesthetic traditions of my culture. I break the screens into pieces and assemble them into intuitive configurations and environments, creating new realities from broken parts. Painted shapes are layered with carvings, creating natural forms out of symbolic cultural materials, building a future reality from pieces of the past. My pen and ink drawings like most of my work are inspired by nature—in its constantly changing state, including parts of trees, rocks, driftwood, and natural fractured patterns—and transforming these into new forms. 

As an immigrant, I embrace new homes and cultures, but being the “Other”, I never fully belong in any one place. I am always an immigrant in my adopted homeland and an expatriate in my former home. Divorce and my ex-husband’s severe mental illness, which are both taboos in my culture, are some of the sources of my family’s resulting trauma. These experiences led to multiple forms of displacement for me and my children after the life and home I built fell apart. My work traces a path of rebuilding life after destructive experiences, creating new realities from broken parts, finding my voice, helping amplify voices of marginalized people especially immigrant women of color pioneering new paths, and creating symbolic dialogues between people across cultures and histories through shared art forms.

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