For decades, I have mined veins of color, pattern, and space in Islamic art and architecture for my own paintings. Illustrations from epic poems like the Shãhnãmeh (or Book of Kings, the mythical record of Iran’s imperial history) and Nizâmî’s Khamseh become foils for present conditions in R&R&R, my ongoing series of over seventy works indebted to medieval through sixteenth-century Islamic culture.
In converting R&R&R, the military abbreviation for “rest and recuperation,” to other words like “regret and renew,” I cull images of regeneration from the workshops of Bihzâd to the court arts of Safavid Iran in collections from Basra to Baltimore. Ghostly translations of Bihzâd’ s Building of Castle Khawarnaq and Building the Great Mosque of Samarkand offer glimmers of hope when painted over digitally manipulated depictions of ruin in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon. Altering these images is an imperfect response to wartime havoc—gestures, albeit feeble, at undoing the damage. They are attempts to recognize and reconstitute what has been decimated through a physical touch that restores, forms that supplant what has been lost, and a palette that revives and replaces the ashen monochrome of rubble.
Susanne Slavick is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon. Slavick has exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States, Europe and Asia. Her paintings have been recognized through an artist fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and four awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. In 2008, she was honored as “Artist of the Year” by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, where she premiered R&R&R.