In residence

Love, sex and female empowerment: GIFs by this week's featured artist, Ghazaleh Rastgar

If you can't love this art, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?

If you can't love this art, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?

Ghazaleh Rastgar is this week's Exhibitionist in Residence. (Courtesy of the artist)

On the new episode of CBC Arts: Exhibitionists we're celebrating love, and this week's Exhibitionist in Residence is out there spreading the greatest love of all (in the Whitney Houston sense of the phrase).

The art of Ghazaleh Rastgar is about the power of learning to love yourself, and we'll be sharing a selection of her animated GIFs on the program. They're illustrations about love and sex and female empowerment with a message that encourages women to celebrate who they are. "It's about being comfortable in your own skin in a sexual way," she says — and here, she explains a little more about her inspiration.

What's it all about?

That theme of female sexuality is as in-your-face as Rastgar's colour-blocked palette: yoni faces, yoni hands, yoni flowers. Yoni's everywhere. ("It's the Sanskrit word for vagina," she says.)

"My work is either about spirituality, and what I'm struggling with spiritually, or it's about sexuality — and sometimes how they both connect," she explains.

"It was basically a way for me to make peace with who I am as a woman," she says, talking about how she started making art like the GIFs below.

Born in Iran, Rastgar moved to Toronto as a young teenager. "Where I'm from, sexuality of women is very suppressed. You're supposed to be ashamed. The only person who's supposed to see you is your husband. For me, [art] was a way to relearn — to love myself and my body. Because you can't separate them."

Her own journey of self-discovery

An alumni of OCAD University's design program, Rastgar says she only started throwing herself into painting and illustration a little more than two years ago. Between Trump's election and the rise of #MeToo, the way her friends talked about their lives was changing.

For me, [art] was a way to relearn — to love myself and my body. Because you can't separate them.- Ghazaleh Rastgar, Exhibitionist in Residence

"Somehow right now, we feel like all these things that have happened to us have happened to many other women. And that made me think about everything that happened and that I brushed under the rug thinking, 'Oh well, this is life.' But now we're realizing this is not supposed to be."

Resist!

This illustration is one of the first things Rastgar drew to express the way she was feeling.

(Ghazaleh Rastgar)

Françoise Mouly (art director of The New Yorker) and daughter Nadja Spiegelman published it in the first edition of Resist!, a free zine that was distributed throughout North America after the 2016 U.S. election. Rastgar was among 1,000 artists who submitted work to the project. "It became a symbol of the Women's March in 2016," she says. 

"When that happened, so many people were really resonating with that image. That kind of made me realize, 'Wow, there's something here. There's something I am saying, that I want to say, that other people can resonate with.' And I think it's the right time to talk about women, and the things that we've dealt with and the things we want to change.

Take a look at her work.

(Ghazaleh Rastgar)
(Ghazaleh Rastgar)
(Ghazaleh Rastgar)
(Ghazaleh Rastgar)
(Ghazaleh Rastgar)
(Ghazaleh Rastgar)
(Ghazaleh Rastgar)
(Ghazaleh Rastgar)

For more from Ghazaleh Rastgar, visit her website and follow her on Instagram. Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30 p.m. (midnight NT) and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. (4 NT).