Artist Statement: As a refugee, my work often focuses on the illusion of “asylum”. While it’s generous of countries to provide so many of us safety, it does come at a huge price. The inability to travel out of the US has been my greatest sacrifice. The loss of my country, my culture, my language, my family continues to tear at me internally. Not being there for the death of my parents or brother is a blessing in that I didn’t have to see them suffer, but I am also left with the worst pain I have ever felt. While this piece isn’t about the glaring reality of what sanctuary really is, it is a continued iteration of loss and in this case, a very personal one as I went through an emergency, radical hysterectomy some months ago. The sense of loss continues, it’s profound, overwhelming and ungraspable. I am no longer who I was, I am a woman in menopause 10 years too early and I have to relearn myself all over again.
A Pakistani artist, Mariam Shah’s journey into the art world began as a 3 year old when she used an HB pencil to draw her mother as a circle with four lines, limbs, jutting out of it, a single curl on her head and a very exact bellybutton! In the presence of her mother, a formidable artist, and her father, a genius civil engineer, Mariam was able to explore the artistic world to her heart’s content. During her adult years, Mariam convinced a high school to let her build an art program for them since they had none. She singlehandedly built a curriculum for the entire school and after 10 years decided to realize her dream of attending Bennington College in Vermont to further her knowledge of the creative arts. At Bennington Mariam threw herself into many areas of the visual and performing arts; painting, ceramics, sculpture, photography, music and voice. During her final year, Mariam honed in on sculptural ceramics as her medium of choice and exhibited, gaudy, life size pieces reminsicent of a Pakistani wedding. After graduating from Bennington, life had different plans for her as she entered the culinary world out of necessity. At this point Mariam is creating work only sporadically, when truly inspired and in her words: “When I can afford to!”. Shah is also a chef and Instagram creator sharing recipes she grew up with and furthering her skills as a photographer. Currently living in Hoosick Falls, NY, Mariam is planning to attend SUNY Albany this fall for a Masters in Social Work while juggling art making and food.