Welcome to a special episode of the Gallery Girl podcast in partnership with Hunna, a contemporary art gallery representing women artists from the Arabian Peninsula. In this episode, my guest is Aidha Badr, an artist from Brooklyn, who formally trained as a portrait painter. She is currently living and working between Cyprus and Istanbul and is exploring an honest style of painting that she feels truly reflects her subjects’ desires, memories, and allure.
In probably the most fun recording of a podcast episode to date, Aidha and I discussed all things art in matching cowboy hats (what else?). Aidha’s mother was an artist, and Aidha would pretend at school to her friends that she made her mother’s hyperrealistic drawings herself. “It felt very good to get praise”, she explains, “The validation felt really good.” She went on to study a BFA in fine art with a speciality in painting, and is now embarking on an MFA in Cyprus. “Istanbul was my dream city, this was the place where I first thought love exists”, she explains, “I was nine, ten years old, and I saw couples feeding each other chocolate and I thought ‘love exists in this city. I want to live there.’” Istanbul didn’t work out though, so she found a way to settle in the closest place to it: Cyprus. “It’s a beautiful, understated island”, she explains, “It’s more of a historical place than a contemporary art scene than you would get in bigger cities.”
Aidha’s paintings tend to depict beautiful women, all of whom are based on the most important women in her life. “I don’t only paint women”, she says, “I only paint these women. These women have impacted my life in a way that I can’t even begin to describe, they possess characteristics that I want to embody.” Many of the images also represent her mother, with her current MFA project being her mom too, inspired by their relationship and how it has changed as she’s gotten older. “She’s been more open about her feelings about my work”, explains Aidha, “I feel that’s really admirable.”
As well as making paintings, Aidha also takes photographs and has an Instagram account called Ugly Food But Good. “I wouldn’t call myself a photographer”, she says of the food focused project, “I made it a point to post in a way that was not really aesthetically pleasing. I would rate the food and let people know how I’m feeling.” She also used it as a platform to combat the performances that are created restaurants, who present food just for Instagram. “I hate that, I lose my appetite, it feels like it’s been played around with too much”, says Aidha, “What I wanted to do was capture food the way you normally eat it on a day-to-day basis in the privacy of your own home.”
And speaking of photos, I asked Aidha whether her paintings were taken from photographs of her mother. “I’ve actually never painted my mom”, she says, “But I paint women who resemble my mom.” In fact, she asks her friends to take selfies and send them to her. “I’m so glad that my friends are so in love with themselves that they have no issue just blowing up my phone with millions of selfies. I do appreciate that about them and I create the environment around them”, she says, “Often it’s red, it’s the most important colour in the world, it’s the colour that was first invented and it’s the colour the world sees first.”
And asking about her heritage, it doesn’t impact her work at all, but if you ask Aidha about her hair-itage, “Yes, I love my curly hair”, adds Aidha. “My drive is just love”, stresses Aidha, “There’s really nothing profound about what I do except for that it’s about beauty.”
As for the future, Aidha hopes to explore more mediums, and to work on projects that are more personal to who she is as a person.