Lowry, Lois, et al., L’Enfant-Femme, Bologna, Damiani Editore, 2016→
Matar, Rania, Tuker, Anne, Minot, Susan, A Girl and Her Room, New York, Umbridge Editions, 2012→
Shahid, Anthony, Matar, Rania, Ordinary Lives, New York, Quantuck Lane Press, 2009
A Girl and Her Room, Newport Art Museum, Newport, May-August 2018→
Rania Matar: She, Galerie Tanit, Beirut, April-June 2018→
In Her Image: Photographs by Rania Matar, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, December 2017-June 2018
Rania Matar studied at the American University of Beirut before moving to the United States in 1984, during the Lebanese Civil War. There she studied at Cornell University before attending the New England School of Photography and the Maine Photographic Workshop.
Primarily a portrait photographer, R. Matar’s work focuses on issues of womanhood, adolescence, and Arab and American identities. Photographing women in the United States and her native Middle East, the artist is able to explore cultural specificity and difference as well as finding commonalities through her investigation of gender performance, sexuality, growth and ageing. Mirrors often feature prominently in her work as a way of fragmenting the gaze and highlighting notions of identity and introspection. The photographer rarely poses the photos, allowing the subjects to express themselves and have some agency over how they are presented.
R. Matar gained acclaim with Ordinary Lives (2009), depicting quotidian life in Lebanon following the series of conflicts the country endured. The images contrast the resilience of the Lebanese people with the material damage of war. Invisible Children (2014-2016) expands upon this theme, while zooming in on Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, many of whom were begging in the streets. Both series highlight the humanity of the subjects, allowing room for them to display agency, humour and humanity, despite the difficult circumstances and uncertainty that surrounds them.
Subsequent bodies of work have focused on motherhood, adolescence and femininity. In L’Enfant-Femme [The child-woman, 2011-2015], R. Matar photographed pre-teen girls in both the United States and the Middle East, interrogating gender performance and sexuality across cultures. In the introduction to the book published of the work, Queen Noor of Jordan described it as “[exposing] the boundaries of American and Arab cultures in order to reconcile them”. In A Girl and Her Room (2012), the artist depicts teenagers in their private spaces.
The age of the subjects R. Matar chooses to photograph at a particular moment in time often correlate to the ages of her own children, creating a direct bridge from the personal to the universal. In Women Coming of Age (2013-), she examines another moment of transition by depicting middle-aged women.
R. Matar has shown worldwide including at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, Germany, and galleries in Beirut, Warsaw, London and more. In 2018 she received the Guggenheim Fellowship for photography, and is an associate professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston.
A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions