Zehra Khan is a multi-media artist living in Provincetown, MA. When she's not drawing she may be making sculptures, costumes, masks, installations, performances or films.
A Pakistani-American born in Indonesia, she grew up in France and Switzerland before moving to the United States for high school. She received a Bachelors from Skidmore College and a MFA from the Mass College of Art & Design at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.
Khan is currently part of the NYC Drawing Center Viewing Program and the deCordova Museum’s Corporate Lending Program. She has attended art residencies at Yaddo, the Contemporary Artists Center, the Vermont Studio Center, and ArtLab at the Mountain Lake Biological Station through the University of Virginia. She was artist-in-residence for the Cape Cod National Seashore C-Scape Dune Shack and was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Drawing in 2012. Her children’s book “A Sunny Day for Flowers” was published by Soberscove Press in 2013.
I transform my friends and myself into animals, painting directly on skin. This initiates a more social and collaborative art practice, and by painting on bodies I participate in acts of intimacy which are in themselves performances of social engagement. My painted volunteers become animal characters activating their environment, fictions drawn to understand natural, human behavior. Much like a kid building a fort out of pillows, it is the process of construction where I gather joy. The creation of this work spills into my real life, involving my friends, travel, playing, reacting, and assessing.
The animal character is placed within an environment/installation; a complete painted background on paper or sheets, or sometimes a recognizable reality of beds, nightstands, and beer collides with drawn elements. This environment plays with two-dimensional drawings crafted into three-dimensional scenarios - like old theater scenery of cutout waves moving against one another to simulate the movement of the ocean. I change the scale, proportions and relationships of the viewer within the space with these low-fi illusions.
The final product of this act is a photograph or film in which the viewer glimpses the surreal high jinks of a human disguised as a giant rat. Showing the photograph alongside the actual installation or filmed performance reveals more of the illusion and the process.