On May 22, 2012, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston honored Lalla Essaydi with the SMFA Medal Award.
Lalla Essaydi grew up in Morocco. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1999, Diploma in 2000, and Master of Fine Arts in 2003 from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's joint program with Tufts University. Essaydi is represented by Schneider Gallery in Chicago, by Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston and by Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York City. Her work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally, including Boston, Chicago, Texas, Colorado, New York, Syria, Ireland, England, France and the Netherlands, and is represented in a number of collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Williams College Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Fries Museum, the Kodak Museum of Art and the Louvre.
Essaydi's art, which often combines Islamic calligraphy with representations of the female body, addresses the complex reality of Arab female identity from the unique perspective of personal experience. In much of her work, she returns to her Moroccan girlhood, looking back on it as an adult woman caught somewhere between past and present, and as an artist, exploring the language in which to "speak" from this uncertain space. Her paintings often appropriate Orientalist imagery from the Western painting tradition, thereby inviting viewers to reconsider the Orientalist mythology. She has worked in numerous media, including painting, video, film, installation and analog photography. "In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lensesas artist, as Moroccan, as Saudi, as traditionalist, as liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite viewers to resist stereotypes."