On this day in 1937, a visionary artist was born who would go on to leave an indelible mark on the art world. Zarina Hashmi, known simply as Zarina, was born in the picturesque town of Aligarh, India. Her life was profoundly shaped by historical events, including the partition of India in 1947, which forced her family to relocate to Karachi, Pakistan. This early experience of displacement would influence her artistry and exploration of themes such as home, identity, and belonging.
At the age of 21, Zarina embarked on a journey that would take her across the globe. Through her travels to Bangkok, Paris, and Japan, she encountered the world of printmaking and absorbed the influences of modernist and abstract art trends. These experiences ignited her passion for artistic expression and set the stage for her later achievements.
In 1977, Zarina made New York City her home, a place where she would flourish as both an artist and an advocate for underrepresented voices. Immersed in the vibrant art scene, she became an ardent supporter of black and female artists, lending her voice to the feminist journal Heresies Collective. Her dedication to exploring the intersection of politics, art, and social justice was evident in her work and collaborations.
Zarina’s impact extended beyond her own artistic endeavors. She joined the faculty of the New York Feminist Art Institute, a groundbreaking institution that provided equal educational opportunities for female artists. In 1980, she co-curated a groundbreaking exhibition at A.I.R. Gallery titled “Dialectics of Isolation: An Exhibition of Third World Women Artists of the United States,” which provided a platform for female artists of color to showcase their work.
Renowned for her minimalist approach, Zarina’s prints captivated viewers with their semi-abstract representations of homes and cities she had lived in. Her creations often incorporated inscriptions in her native Urdu and geometric designs inspired by Islamic art. Through her art, Zarina explored the concept of home as a flexible and abstract realm that transcends materiality and physical location, delving into themes of mobility, diaspora, and exile.
|President’s Award for Printmaking, India
|Japan Foundation Fellowship, Tokyo
|Printmaking Workshop Fellowship, New York
|New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, New York
|Grand Prize, International Biennial of Prints, Bhopal, India
|Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation grant, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship
|Residency, Women’s Studio Workshop, Rosendale, New York
|Residency, Art-Omi, Omi, New York
|Residency, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts
|Residency, Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga, California
|Residency, University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia
Zarina’s exceptional talent and contributions to the art world did not go unnoticed. She received numerous awards and accolades throughout her career, including the prestigious President’s Award for Printmaking in India in 1969. Her work was showcased internationally, and in 2011, she was chosen as one of the representatives for India’s debut exhibit at the Venice Biennale. Her first retrospective was held at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2012, solidifying her place as an influential figure in contemporary art.
Today, we remember Zarina Hashmi as a trailblazing artist, a fierce advocate for marginalized voices, and a visionary whose work continues to inspire and provoke introspection. Her exploration of themes such as home, identity, and displacement resonates deeply in an ever-changing world. Zarina’s legacy serves as a reminder of the power of art to transcend borders and foster dialogue, inviting us all to contemplate our place in the vast tapestry of human experience.