Hend al-Mansour

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Hend al-Mansour (born 1956) is a Saudi Arabian-American visual artist and physician. Her printed silkscreens, installation art and portraits of Muslim women explore the religious and social belief systems of Arab communities. She earned degrees in cardiology and internal medicine, practicing medicine for 20 years. She immigrated to the United States in 1997 after receiving a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. She then pursued an art career, attending the Women's Art Institute at St. Catherine University and earning her MFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design.[1]


Hend al-Mansour was born in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia in 1956. She obtained a degree of medicine from Cairo University in 1981. For 20 years, al-Mansour worked as a physician, as an Arab women, a career that provided her "personal freedom and self-worth."[2] She practiced medicine in Saudi Arabia at Hofuf and Riyadh until 1997 when she immigrated to the United States, having received a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. During her medical career she obtained degrees in internal medicine and cardiology.

In 2000 she shifted careers from medicine to art, attending the Women's Art Institute at St. Catherine University. She was the program's teaching assistant the following year. While a student and participating in the institute she began to answer the question "Who's your audience?"[2] She obtained a Master of Fine Arts from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) in 2002. Al-Mansour is an installation artist, silkscreen printer and a public speaker. Her work is about women in the Islamic world. She creates spaces representing private lives of women out of silk-screened fabrics. She has shown in Minnesota and other states in the United States as well as in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.[2] She is married to Dr. David Penchansky, a theology professor and writer, and they live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Themes, media and style[edit]

Al-Mansour's work explores religious and social belief systems of the Arab communities, especially those dealing with women, sexuality and understanding the other. She uses Arabic calligraphy, images of Arab people, Islamic ornamentation and architecture. She investigates the status of contemporary Arab art and cultivates its independence from Western art and its distinction from other Middle Eastern and Islamic identities. She defines her audience as people from home, Saudi Arabia, and people in the Middle East because they can most easily identify with her work and she is a part of them. As an American immigrant she feels comfortable in the United States, but explains that she typically needs to offer lengthy introductions to her use of religious and feminist ritualistic symbols to non Saudi or Arab women and audiences.[2]

Al-Mansour often depicts portraits of Muslim women in architectural spaces using materials made out of silk screened, dyed or hennaed fabrics. Figured prominently in her pictorial images are stylized figures and faces intertwined with Islamic ornamentation composed using repeated, patterned forms. For example, a screen print from 2013 entitled Facebook 1 shows two women wearing dark blue chadors and seated on a patterned rug in an interior space. The woman in the foreground looks out at the viewer as she writes, with her right hand, words in Arabic on a large open book with white pages that dominates the background of the image. Behind the open book is a red-checkered, patterned field based on a scarf pattern typically worm by Saudi men.[3] The woman in the background has her head down, which the artist has identified as a kind of self-portrait: "It symbolizes for me, that this woman has accepted what is going on, without resistance. It represents a side of me that might have accepted things in the past."[3]

In her large-scale installations, Al-Mansour uses large sheets of silk, wool, canvas, or other fabric. Her installations resemble shrines, tents or mosques in which the viewer walks in: they include archways, domes, sand, cushions, rugs, bowls or geometric sculptures and distinctive Middle Eastern perfumes and scents that reflect aspects of her subjects' personalities and cultures.

In the 2014 exhibition titled How to Be a Feminist Artist, which took place at the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery at St. Catherine University, Al-Mansour's featured works examined the role of Muslim women in modern society. She included traditional Islamic elements like passages from the Quran and vivid Arabic textile patterns and designs to express gender disparity towards women.[1][4]

Selected exhibitions[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tundel, Nikki (February 5, 2014). "Hend Al-Mansour creates art to question women's roles". MPR News.
  2. ^ a b c d Erickson, Elizabeth; Olson, Patricia (2014). How To Be a Feminist Artist: Investigations From the Women's Art Institute The Interviews. St. Paul, MN: St. Catherine University. pp. 12–15.
  3. ^ a b Olson, Norma Smith. "Art across Cultures". Minnesota Women's Press.
  4. ^ Rolenc, Sharon (January 13, 2014). "Exhibition: How to Be a Feminist Artist opens Feb. 3". St. Catherine University.

External links[edit]