Bessma Khalaf - Monument, 2009

Bessma Khalaf

Iraq 1978

Video Art

Bessma Khalaf
Bessma Khalaf
October 31, 2015
Nina Karaicic is a journalist with experience in TV and radio media. Born in 1989, she had studied at the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Political Sciences (Journalism). Interests: Photography, Art, Film, Folklore, Video Games

Bessma Khalaf is an Iraqi interdisciplinary artist, born in 1978 in Baghdad. When Bessma was 12 years old, she immigrated to the United States with her family. Her works are influenced by the life in two very different worlds. Trying to control every aspect of her creation, Bessama herself is often featured in her artworks.

Ruin Series 2014

Bessma Khalaf - Ruin series, 2014 - Double Rainbow and Old Faithful
Bessma Khalaf – Ruin series, 2014 – Double Rainbow and Old Faithful

Through her works in a variety of mediums, like photography, performance and video, Khalaf explores the limits of place. Her practice thrives on the coalition between possibility and futility. She takes inspiration from both Iraqi and American landscapes and blends into them, becoming a part of their traditions and histories.
In This Land is My Land, the work she did while studying at the California College of the Arts, Bessma filmed herself eating cheap baked goods for 26 minutes, depicting the wonder of an immigrant in the culture of gluttony and excess. The artist tried to portray a tragic hero who fell down a horse in her work titled Monument. She sat for six hours on a horse made of ice until the horse melted down. The idea that art and rebirth are connected, Khalaf captured in her work titled Tree Painting. The artist painted a dead Christmas tree green for five hours in her studio.

Re-Enchanter Series 2012

Bessma Khalaf - Re-Enchanter Series 2012 - Like A Halo In Reverse, Still Life With Le Creuset and Pyromancy
Bessma Khalaf – Re-Enchanter Series 2012 – Like A Halo In Reverse, Still Life With Le Creuset and Pyromancy

Khalaf went to San Diego State University in San Diego, California, where she obtained her Bachelor in Arts. She received her Master of Fine Arts from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, California. Khalaf’s artworks have been displayed in numerous exhibitions and shows in New York, San Francisco, Santa Monica and Baltimore.

In 2015, Bessama’s artworks were featured in Second Nature exhibition, a four-person show organized by Hashimoto Contemporary Gallery in San Francisco. The show also featured the works of Jacqueline Norheim, Dan Swindel and Steuart Pittman. The common thing for all four artists is that they use their experience as material for their creations, which has become a “second nature” for them.

Second Nature Installation View

Bessma Khalaf - In the Woods, 2014, Installation View - Courtesy of Hashimoto Contemporary Gallery
Bessma Khalaf – In the Woods, 2014, (Installation View) – A still from a 37-second-long looping video featured in the exhibition.

The artist received a Murphy Cadogan Fellowship and the Vision from the New California Award. She also did a residency at the Kala Art Institute in Berkley, California.

Her work impressed not only the public, but the critics as well, and it was featured in numerous publications, such as Artforum, Baltimore City Paper, the San Francisco Tribute and Zyzzyva.

She lives and works in Oakland, California.

All images courtesy of the artist and Spoke Art/Hashimoto Contemporary

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015Second NatureHashimoto Contemporary, San Francisco, CAGroup
2014Yes, even youGallery Four, Baltimore, MDSolo
2013The Long ConversationSouthern Exposure, San Francisco CAGroup
2013NADA NYCQueens Nails Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2013OuroborosRoot Division, San Francisco CAGroup
2013Thinking Like The UniverseHatch Gallery, Oakland CAGroup
2013Supra NaturalBerkeley Central Arts Passage, Berkeley CAGroup
2013Continuations: Processing war and traumaAsian Rescourse Center Gallery, Oakland CAGroup
2012Re-EnchanterSteven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco, CASolo
2012Making a SceneSouthern Exposure, San Francisco, CAGroup
2012I'm So Goth I'm DeadQueen's Nails Projects, San Francisco, CAGroup
2012Hi-JackJack Shainman Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2012Visions Form the New California18th Street Art Center, Santa Monica, CAGroup
2012PlaybackQueen's Nails Annex, San Francisco, CAGroup
2012DocumentOKrowswork Gallery, Oakland, CAGroup
2011California ContinuedSmith Anderson North Gallery, San Anselmo, CAGroup
2011Art Pad SFSteven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco, CAGroup
2010Time After Time: Actions and InteractionsSouthern Exposure, San Francisco, CAGroup
2009You're Not ThereSteven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco, CASolo
2009GardenKeys that Fit Gallery, Oakland, CASolo
2009Live and DirectPing Pong Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2009Artists' Films Series: Omer Fast, Harun Farocki, Brian Conley, and Bessma Khalaf,CCA Campus, San Francisco, CAGroup
2008Detourned Menu: Food in the Form of ActivismISE Cultural Foundation, New York, NYGroup
2008Value MaxSteven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco, CAGroup
2008East of the WestSomarts Bay Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2007LTC Plus OneM1 Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2007Cream from the topArts Benicia center gallery, Benicia, CAGroup
2007CCA 2007 Centennial Graduate ExhibitionCCA, San Francisco, CAGroup
2006Detourned Menu: Food in the Form of ActivismThe Lab, San Francisco, CAGroup
2006Immediate Future: The Murphy & Cadogan Fellowships in the Fine ArtsSan Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2006Awesome: The Contemporary SublimePlaySpace Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2006Trucker Hats vs. Sideways HaircutsClub Six, San Francisco, CAGroup
2005Betty Doppelganger Does The Big FakeMagpie gallery, San Diego, CASolo
2005Juried BiennialWilliam D. Cannon Art Gallery, Carlsbad, CAGroup
2005Closer ApartLimbo Fine Art, San Diego, CAGroup
2005Love, Lust & The Politics of DancingLimbo Fine Art, San Diego, CAGroup
2003Kill Them BothThe Farm Art Space, San Diego, CASolo
2003America, Permanent HolidayFlor Y Canto Gallery, San Diego, CASolo
2003Verwood and The Cinder GirlThe Farm Art Space, San Diego, CAGroup
2003New Photography: New and Old Ideas About Old and New SubjectsThe Muse Gallery, San Diego, CAGroup
2003The Machine Shop ShowSan Diego State University, San Diego, CAGroup
2002Henpecked HeidiEverett Gee Jackson Gallery, San Diego, CAGroup