The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis, is proud to present Shiva Ahmadi: Strands of Resilience, on view through May 6, 2024. Ahmadi, a professor of art at UC Davis, uses painting as a form of truth-telling, combining luminous colors and mystical beings with violent imagery to draw attention to urgent global issues of migration, war and brutality against marginalized peoples. 

This exhibition of all new works — Ahmadi’s first midcareer solo museum exhibition on the West Coast — focuses on female figures in fantastical land- and waterscapes. Her technical explorations with the temperamental medium of watercolor enable her to play with ideas of covering and uncovering. The recent incorporation of screenprints into her paintings allows her to deepen this temporal and physical layering between the actual and the imagined and the intersection of the two. By inserting images that read as ruins or clues to a deeper story, Ahmadi probes what lies hidden beneath the surface of the stories we are told, from ancient myths to childhood memories to the modern news cycle. In Unbound, (2023), a 40-by-60-inch watercolor, a female figure rendered in vibrant purple, maroon and chartreuse tones strides into a tangle of splotches of paint that could be flowers, explosion or amoebas, while the corner of an upended multi-story building hovers like a mirage in the background.

“Shiva Ahmadi’s art has the power to engage the most important topics of our time,” said Associate Curator and Exhibition Department Head Susie Kantor, who curated Shiva Ahmadi: Strands of Resilience. “While her work has always been technically brilliant and political, this new body of paintings brings to the fore the global fight for women’s rights — an issue that touches all of us.”