By: Bindu Bansinath
August 28, 2019
For South Asian women “Fraaaandship?” is an inside joke, an unwanted solicitation, the sound of strange men creeping into your DMs. “Fraaaandship!” is also the title of Maria Qamar’s art installation at the Richard Taittinger Gallery, on display through September 2. Qamar is a Pakistani-Canadian artist who rose to prominence on Instagram, where she illustrates the experiences of South Asian millennial women as soap-operatic, Roy Lichtenstein–inspired pop art.
Sometimes Qamar’s women are crying and lovelorn. Other times they’re glossy-haired containers of rage that leap colorfully, fantastically off the canvas. In the installation’s titular work, a bloody, disembodied male hand grabs a lavender-skinned woman by the arm. “FRAAAANDSHIP?” he asks. The woman’s “NO” reverberates through the gallery’s white walls.
For Qamar, “Fraaaandship!” isn’t only about lewd online connections. It’s also about genuine friendship, and the bonds women make from shared experiences of abuse. “Being a woman on the internet is kind of sad, which is why we make fun of how ridiculous it is,” Qamar says. Her work isn’t all about darkness: Vinyl-and-wood-board didis (sisters) float on the gallery walls. There’s a helium-filled installation of Maggi noodles, and viewers can plop down on samosa bean-bag chairs. Qamar spoke to the Cut about her Desi upbringing, Indian soap operas, and Roy Lichtenstein.