This story is over 5 years old.

feminist art

Artist Reimagines Renaissance Era Paintings with Powerful Women

Enter a magical world where beautiful women dance with severed heads.
Rivers in our mouths, oil and pencil on canvas, 200 x 250 cm, 2017. All images courtesy the artist

Wipe The Garden of Earthly Delights clean of couples and men, and it's a few nude women, dancing across a fantastic pastel landscape. Sanam Khatibi paints a magical world, just ever-so-slightly detached from reality and rooted in Renaissance imagery.

"I think the core of my practice deals with our primal impulses, bestiality, and our relationship to power structures," Khatibi tells Creators. "I question our ambiguous relation to dominance and submission. I am interested in our ambivalent nature to power, violence, and sensuality, and how closely they can be related."


With the valour of my tongue, oil and pencil on canvas, 150 x 180 cm, 2016

The Iranian-born artist creates a landscape where women are hunters and exclaim their sensuality with titles like "Everything's at home except your wife" or "With the valour of my tongue." "I guess my girls were never told 'Don't play with your food!'" she says.

However Khatibi's technical inspirations are much more classical. "My work has been influenced more by the old masters, which I find more and more fascinating," she says. "I discovered Lucas Cranach's work a few years ago, which ignited my passion for the old masters and the Renaissance period."

Khatibi also cites the work of Frida Kahlo, Hieronymus Bosch, and Henry Darger as inspirations. The classic stories and literature of Persia, like The Book of Kings and Kalila and Dimna also influenced Khatibi's outlook. They're fables and history lessons brought to the public through the ages with a combination of mysticism and animal personification.

I thought you'd might like to dance, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm, 2015

With tenderness and longing, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm, 2015

No one's going quietly, oil and pencil on canvas, 170 x 180 cm, 2016

To save her I would murder the world, oil and pencil on canvas, 140 x 180 cm, 2016

Young Flesh burns best (left), Whenever I dance for you I get in trouble (right) oil and pencil on canvas, 140 x 180 cm, 2015

You forgot to kiss me, ceramics, 90 x 32 x 4 cm, 2015 (bottom). The hollow in the ferns, hand-woven wool tapestry, 220 x 260 cm, 2016 (center)

He hit me and it felt like a kiss, embroidery on linen and framed in brass, 21 x 26 cm, 2015

If I had a tail, oil and pastel on canvas, 50 x 60 cm, 2015

A version of loveliness, oil and pencil on canvas, 160 x 200 cm, 2016

In my sweetheart's arms, oil and pencil on canvas, 140 x 180 cm, 2016

In September, Khatibi will display a solo show at Rodolphe Janssen gallery during the Brussels Gallery Weekend. In November, she will be part of a group show at Various Small Fires in Los Angeles. Follow Khatibi's work on her Instagram and visit her website.


Famous Renaissance Paintings Are Even More Surreal as Modern Photos

Kitschy Sculptures Update Renaissance Portraiture for Modern Times

Meet The Artist Turning Warped Renaissance Art GIFs Into An Augmented Reality Book