Visual Artist Safwat Saleem Uses Dark Satire In 'Concerned, But Powerless' Exhibit

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 4:21pm
Updated: Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 8:43am
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(Photo courtesy of Safwat Saleem)
"Concerned, but Powerless" by Safwat Saleem.
(Photo courtesy of Peter Bugg)
"Concerned, but Powerless" by Safwat Saleem.
(Photo courtesy of Safwat Saleem)
Artist Safwat Saleem.

Visual artist Safwat Saleem likes to use satire — sometimes dark satire — in his work. He’s a Pakistani-American who became a U.S. citizen last year. And as he watched the 2016 election unfold, that wit came out in a series of soliloquies that he’s put onto paper in his new exhibition at Chandler’s Vision Gallery, “Concerned, but Powerless.” 

That’s Saleem reading some of the pieces that are on display in the show. In each piece, those cutting phrases are written above a collage of vintage imagery from 1950s and '60s ads, mixed with Urdu writing and charcoal drawing. They’re like reading entries from his journal, he told me, as he tried to process the feeling that so many of his generation express today.

I met the artist at Vision Gallery recently, and he gave me a tour of the show. We started standing in front of the first — and largest piece — in the exhibition, one that depicts a burning house and some words written in Urdu.

You can see Safwat Saleem’s show, “Concerned, but Powerless” at Vision Gallery in downtown Chandler until March 2.  

EDITOR'S NOTE: The photo captions have been modified to correct the name of the photographer and spelling of Safwat Saleem’s name. 

The Show