Los Angeles-based artist Yasmine Nasser Diaz can be described as a collagist, not only of cut and rearranged images, but also of heritages, cities, languages and decades.
Born in Chicago to Yemeni parents, the multidisciplinary artist creates works that explore the complexities of third culture identity. Adolescence, not only as an age but as a conceptual stage of learning, is a recurring subject of inquiry for the artist. In her ongoing “Bedroom” series, Diaz is building immersive bedrooms for two fictional Arab-American teenage sisters. The room is filled with newspapers, novels, makeup, and takes place in what is supposed to be a Midwestern house from the 1990s.
Fabrics play an essential role in his work. Diaz recently started a series of fiber prints in which she applies an acid paste to velvet fabrics. The process allows the cellulose fibers in the fabric to dissolve, while the silk-based base mesh remains intact, creating patterns of opacity and transparency. In fashion, this treatment of the fabric is called devoré and is reminiscent of a Yemeni dress style (known as dir ‘) reserved for married women.
After exhibitions at the Arab American Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and Ochi Projects in Los Angeles, Diaz recently installed his work, Just for your eyes, at NADA House on Governors Island in New York (on view until August 1).
We caught up with the artist in her Los Angeles studio to find out more about the Instagram accounts she finds most inspiring and her impromptu studio dance parties.
What are the most essential items in your studio and why?
My wireless headphones and X-Acto knives with plenty of new, fresh blades at hand. Collage is at the heart of the practice and I often do small, quick pieces to warm up when I arrive in the studio.
What is the studio task on your schedule tomorrow that you are looking forward to the most?
Continue to play with these textile collages. I like the first phase and the novelty of experimenting in a different direction.
What atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence?
If I’m cleaning up or rearranging, which is an important and frequent studio ritual, I’ll listen to a podcast. If I’m in “process mode” I have about 30 playlists I’m running between. If I write, I generally prefer total silence.
What trait do you admire most in a work of art?
I like to see work that has a new or different take on something very familiar. Sometimes it’s an unexpected use of humor or a seemingly straightforward execution that brilliantly captures something very complex and nuanced.
What trait do you despise the most?
Contempt is a strong word….
What snack could your studio not function without?
Popcorn and mandarins.
Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
Simone Leigh’s Instagram feed is one of my favorites. There are so many other artists I could name, so I’m going to pick one. I am a huge fan of Meriem Bennani’s animation videos. I love his use of unusual humor and fiction to explore very real and current world events. It is playful and intelligent work and often has a playful and mischievous quality.
When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get out of it?
There are a lot of impromptu dances that happen in my studio. I put on my headphones to spare my neighbors, turn up the music and dance for a few minutes. It’s an instant mood changer. I also recently bought a hoop for the studio, so it’s a new favorite. When I’m particularly stuck, the best thing to do is leave the studio. I’m going to go shopping, go for a walk, call a friend. Better than spinning my wheels and going nowhere.
What is the last exhibition that you saw (virtual or not) that marked you?
Hayv Kahraman’s show “The touch of otherness“impressed me. Her work still does! Susu Attar recently shared a very powerful collaborative multimedia work titled October Uprising Project. It beautifully merges images from the 2019 revolution in Baghdad with the streets of Los Angeles using projections like moving paintings. I also loved the group show “myself” it was at the Kohn Gallery, curated by Joshua Friedman. So much great work on this show.
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