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Saima Shamsi

Visual Arts, Drawings & Illustration

Artist Statement

My name is Saima Shamsi. I am a first-generation Pakistani-American and Muslim-American woman, visual artist, writer and poet. My purpose is to create images that emerge from the catalystic fusion of my hyphenated identities.

I use words in my literary work and images in my visual art to describe the tenacity, strength and conviction of nontraditional and nonconformist women who are marginalized, and who dare to fly in the face of cookie-cutter stereotypes.

Through my writing, artwork and poetry, I like to represent metaphorical and symbolic imagery and impressions of what it feels like to be a liberal, secular and free-thinking Muslim-American woman.

I believe that creating art and writing about people who feel set apart and different catalyze the necessary discussion and dialogues that need to be in the world today.

I have lived and studied in London and New York. My artwork has been exhibited in NYC, several of my written pieces have been published (see credits below), and one of my literary works has been read on NPR.

Although some of my images may be strange to look at, I create them because I believe that beauty can be found in the strangest of places.

I write stories and poetry, and create visual art as a way to help empower rebellious and unconventional Muslim girls, women, young men and other marginalized individuals, by exploring themes of identity, sexuality, girlhood and womanhood, coming-of-age stories, the body, body image and psychological conditions.

I often use fantastical and surreal elements in my compositions. My work can be seen as representing girls, women, young men and all individuals fighting, overcoming and transcending the patriarchy, in strange and imaginative ways.

My art comes from a strong propensity for things that are outside the norm; the surreal, and unsettling.

I am inspired by outsiders, marginalized characters, people hiding under the table who you would otherwise not notice, and dislocated voices that ought to be heard, but are often dismissed, ignored, or recorded over.

I believe that unsettling images exist for a reason.

To make us question the limits and boundaries of our own world, and to re-imagine what could be possible, if we allow our minds to see things in a different way.

Creating is a constant in my life. The process for me is one of intense meditation on how I see and experience the world.

I create in a detailed way, so that it is meditative almost by necessity.

I manifest a world to disappear into, and in my literature and fine art drawings, focus in on details that are otherwise overlooked and forgotten.

And then I reach an awareness of what it could be, or what it could be turned into.

Whatever I create is an extension of some part of myself.

Art is my experience of reeling something in from the ether and lassoing it into existence.

Awards & Publications

Saima Shamsi is a first-generation Pakistani-American woman, writer and visual artist and has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from University of London in England, and a BA in English Literature from Rutgers University.

Her artwork has been exhibited in NYC, and her written work has been read on NPR. She has lived and studied in London and New York.

Saima writes stories to help empower rebellious and unconventional Muslim girls, women, members of the South Asian LGBTQ community and other marginalized individuals, by exploring themes of identity, sexuality, girlhood and womanhood, alienation, coming-of-age stories, the body, body image and psychology.

Her written work titled “I, a Muslim Woman” was read on NPR (National Public Radio).

Eight of her written pieces have been published. Saima was invited to be a contributor to Arianna Huffington’s (of Huffington Post) new publication Thrive Global. Some of her short stories (“Flower,” “Scars,” “The Third Eye,” “Ghul” and “Behind the House that Floats in a Fog”), her poem “Being a Muslim Woman” and her work entitled “Living as a Muslim American Woman and Overcoming Multiple Mental Illnesses: Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety and OCD” have been published in Huffington’s Thrive Global.

Saima's work has also been published in TheMighty.com, which has 150 million readers and is a partner site to Huffington Post, and in SUNY (The State University of New York's) "The Healing Muse” Journal of Literary and Visual Arts, which is a journal that was listed in The Pushcart Prize Literary Magazine Rankings.

Her literary work has also been published in Medium, founded by the co-founders of Twitter, CEO Ev Williams and Biz Stone.

Her short story “Scars” was published in the British literary magazine LAFZ based in London, England and is now on Thrive Global.

She has been awarded by President Bill Clinton the President’s Award for Educational Excellence and was granted a Special Congressional Recognition for Artistic Achievement by Congressman Christopher H. Smith.

Saima won First Prize in the Drawing/Illustration category of Orangenius (now known as Artrepreneur): Explorations Competition 2018 based in New York, and had her artwork exhibited in NYC at Dejavu Gallery, formerly known as Bodley Art Gallery, which was once host to notable artists Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Max Ernst and many others.

She has just finished writing a book - "The Djinn of Shalimar: Forbidden Tales of the Strange & Unusual" - a collection of short stories, which she would like to have published, and is currently looking for an agent or publisher to help represent her work and publish her books.

In the wake of the burgeoning #MeToo Women's Movement and Trump's "Muslim Ban," her book should be relevant and timely because most of the stories in it are comprised mainly of female Muslim and unconventional protagonists.

Saima can be reached at: