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Artist Saj Issa Mashes the Corporate with the Divine
Sajeda “Saj” Issa is an up-and-coming Palestinian American artist whose work has been exhibited at the Felix Art Fair 2022 in Los Angeles, the Materials Art Fair 2022 in Mexico City, and the exhibition “Many” at the Craft Contemporary Museum in California. She earned her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she currently resides.
Issa utilizes numerous mediums in her work, such as hand cut ceramic tiles, clay and fiber. These materials are then juxtaposed with everyday American capitalist imagery, such as Nike logos, and daily shibboleths, such as standing at a convenience store counter.
In her piece “Get Her Some Water” (2022), for example, a receipt covers the face of a cashier, following the Islamic prohibition on figuration (depicting people in paintings). Painted tiles with the 7-Eleven logo fill the background.
Her first solo exhibition, titled “I Was Out Partying While You Were Home Making Prayers,” took place in 2022 at Le Maximum in Los Angeles. In another piece, “Portrait of Father,” Issa uses ceramic tiles again to recall a mihrab, or prayer niche. Patterned over the tiles lay Marlbro chevrons, contrasting the traditional style. These symbols of ritual come together in an evocative way, combining devotion and piety with addiction and hedonism.
Issa also has work touching on her experiences as a woman, such as “Men Look At Women, Women Watch Men Look At Them,” a mixed medium piece consisting of an entire vanity mirror, covered in metal, complete with diamond shaped non-slip tread.
On the vanity sit women’s underwear, cosmetics and toiletries, all fashioned from unglazed clay, giving them a delicate look against the industrial looking vanity.
Issa’s work often expresses themes of displacement, identity, social issues, labor and consumerism. She says, “I want my viewers to be provoked, informed, and entertained … As I put form to these social overlaps, it is an attempt to bring awareness to viewers of their own similarities to the side they position themselves against.”
Issa’s use of various mediums and juxtapositions manage to avoid typical clichés, and in a short amount of time have solidified her as an artist with a style all her own.