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Lalla Essaydi on Boston’s art scene

The artist will receive the Medal Award from her alma mater, Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, on Tuesday.

Lalla Essaydi’s art combines Islamic calligraphy and images of women.handout

They actually asked me if I wanted the award! I was almost in tears. THE MUSEUM SCHOOL FOR ME WAS MY SECOND HOME. I forged the most wonderful friendships there. I changed. I came to the States from Morocco, and I became a different person. When I go back to my culture, I now have to find new ways of getting back into it.

I lived in Boston for more than eight years. I moved to New York, but my connection to Boston is very strong. I still have MY STUDIO IN BOSTON.

Boston's not provincial. It's more focused on local artists, and I think that's a very IMPORTANT STEP FOR AN ARTIST. It opens the door for you for the international world. If I was instead thrown into the wildness of New York, it would have been a very difficult experience for me. The sharing of the community is a little bit lacking in New York, where you're on your own.

MY WORK IS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL. I was confronted in a way when I came to the West with how women are free with their life and choices and their identity. And I wasn't missing that so much in my culture until I was seeing something different. We are all human beings. I wanted to learn why is it so different from one culture to another, one religion to another.


Where I grew up, we lived inside the house. It's not like in New York, where I come to my house just to sleep. Women in my family did not even go out. YOU LIVE IN THE HAREM. If you go out, you are covered. Women lived within the house, so everything is so beautiful — hyper-aesthetic, if you will. That influence is what you see in my work.

— As told to Tina Sutton


This interview has been edited and condensed.