Milan-based Lebanese artist Sarah Saleh introduces her intervention for this issue of Selections, explaining the punk roots behind her work

Originally from Beirut, Lebanon, Sarah Saleh is a visual artist currently based in Milan, where she studies graphic design and art direction at Nuova Accademia Belle Arti.

In 2015, she did an internship at Leo Burnett in Beirut, where she worked as a creative. A year later she presented her first solo show, AKUPUNKTURE, at Laboratorio Universitario Metropolitano in Milan.

Saleh is known for her provocative collages, which often combine images from fashion magazines, newspaper and found objects, particularly feathers and threads. She is strongly influenced by figures from the punk scene, such as Linder Sterling, an iconic feminist collage artist known for her montages, which often combine images taken from women’s fashion and domestic magazines, particularly those of domestic appliances, making a point about the cultural expectations of women and the treatment of the female body as a commodity.

Other influences include Hannah Hösh, one of the originators of photomontage. Hösh’s art combines female traits and a critique of the mass culture beauty industry of her time. Saleh is also influenced by the work of Cindy Sherman, a contemporary master of social critique through photography, who also criticises the influence of mass media. The underlying subjects in Sherman’s series of self-portraits are sexual desire and domination, mass deception and fashion.

In her new work, DIY Sisters, Saleh encourages the punk scene by combining images from fashion magazines with feathers and threads.

Punk is an aggressive and anarchic movement that promotes anti-fashion, urban youth and street culture. Punks often cut up clothes from charity and thrift shops and redesign them in a provocative way to attract attention.

DIY Sisters is a way to show how punk fashion allows you to be creative, use your imagination and be different from everyone else without spending any money at all. It also criticises the amount of money people spend on clothing.

Another positive aspect about punk fashion is that it’s unisex and encourages gender equality. A focal point of DIY Sisters is the striking punk hair. Punk hair is spiked as high as possible and is often dyed using bright colours, to attract attention. It’s intended to make punks look intimidating.

The work also has an ironic touch — the disfiguration of women’s faces and bodies by placing big lips or eyes on a small face, or by replacing a body with a leg.
This disfiguration appears in many of Saleh’s collages as a way of criticising “normality” and “perfection.”

DIY Sisters encourages gender equality and motivates people to be more creative, follow their imaginations, and be outside the norm.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Performing Arts Issue #39, page 118.