By Leah Hansen
She stands alone among the trees in a forest; amid a field of canola;
on a beach, the horizon and the sky stretching out before her, wide and full. Her clothed figure is serene, seemingly at peace.
Leila Fatemi, a practicing Muslim and fourth-year photography student at Ryerson, explores ideas of tranquility, freedom, serenity and isolation in her exhibition,
The Wandering Veil. Each photograph in the series – on display now at the IMA Gallery on Spadina Avenue – depicts Fatemi as a lone figure, shrouded in a pristine white prayer veil, the Chador, situated in beautiful natural surroundings.
“Through this project, I’m exploring what the veil embodies,” Fatemi says. “It’s something that is subjective and means different things to different people at different points in their life… It’s something that I’m still struggling to understand myself, and that’s partly why I created this series. I’m trying to understand my relationship with [the veil].”
Throughout the series, Fatemi attempts to disconnect the veil from ideas of oppression and strives to remove political associations by allowing the veiled figure to stand for herself in her own world. While each image is quiet, serene and unassuming, there is an intense feeling of privacy that comes with each one.
“Ultimately, it is about the peace and tranquility that comes with the practice,” Fatemi says.
The series began as a third-year class project. At the urging of several professors and friends, she submitted her work to the IMA Gallery, a student and faculty-run facility formerly known as the Ryerson Gallery.
While she is no stranger to exploring religious subject matter through art – her previous work also focuses on religion – Fatemi says it feels strange to have such personal work on public display.
“It’s [hard] being both the artist and a vital part of the project,” she says. “Even talking about it is still something that I struggle with.”
For each photograph, Fatemi explains she focused on picking a landscape that she found reflective of her life at that moment. Beaches, waterfalls, fields and cliffs are only a few of the locations chosen; the only constant is that all are located in the GTA.
“Growing up in Toronto has defi nitely shaped who I am in many different aspects – how I identify myself and who I am in society,” says Fatemi.
The photographs seem to lend a sense of empowerment to the veiled figure and explore the line between the veil’s political connotations and its spiritual meaning.
With the stunning images captured and displayed in the exhibition, Fatemi analyzes what the veil means to her. What she leaves the viewer is raw, haunting beauty.