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Desi-Pop artist Maria Qamar is reclaiming art space for women of color

Maria Qamar, better known by her Instagram handle @hatecopy, is a Desi-Pop artist whose art refuses translation. After working as a copy editor (hence the pseudonym), Qamar turned to art as a form of therapy.

“[In] the environment I was raised in, anything that was art related was something to be ashamed of,”

Qamar told Kulture Hub before the opening of her show FRAAAAAANDSHIP, now on view at the Richard Taittinger Gallery through Sept. 2.

“The arts are such a prevalent thing in our culture. Look at the temples and look at the mosques and the buildings and the architecture and the food–everything is art. It’s strange to me how a career in the arts is looked down upon.”


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After posting a drawing on Instagram inspired by the work of 1960s pop-artist Roy Lichtenstein — but now with full lips, brown skin, a bindi, and a speech bubble proclaiming “I burnt the rotis” — she began to gain a devout following.

Now, Qamar has done illustrations for Bon Appétite‘s Priya Krishna and decorated the sets of Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project. She also created a mural for the San Francisco based restaurant Besharam, with her illustrations adorning the bistro’s plates as well as their Instagram profile photo.

Social media platforms have revolutionized the art world in a big way. The autonomous nature of the internet has, across the board, has allowed artists whose voices were previously barred from being heard to express themselves, loud and proud.

PC: Richard Taittinger Gallery | Maria Qamar: Faltu Tradition

Qamar herself turned to Instagram as a type of “judgment-free” gallery. While the Internet is a “hellhole that we all need to learn how to maneuver at some point,” it was also a way to present her art without having to go through any kind of filter first.

“I wonder if [my work] is mainstream. I want it to be mainstream,” Qamar told Kulture Hub.

“I want these topics to be exhausted, because that means we are moving past a lot of the pain and trauma in the way women of color are talked to and the way we are treated in other communities and our own… I’m still growing, I’m still learning.”

PC: Richard Taittinger Gallery | Maria Qamar: Didi 1, Didi 3

For Qamar, the path from Internet success to her first NYC solo show allowed her to build her own image in a way that felt comfortable to her. Due to her online presence, she was able to have relative control in almost every step of her professional career, something that is rare when it comes to the art world.

However, getting her start independently of traditional mechanisms of support was very difficult. Qamar, who had never gone to art school, had to figure out a means to support herself all on her own. She now runs a successful merchandise site where fans can buy prints, her book, Trust No Aunty, as well as her fashion line.


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Qamar’s body of work and the stories behind it serves as a perfect bridge between the old and the new. As stated previously, her biggest inspiration came from the iconic comic book portraits of the pop-artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Upon first glance, the connections between Qamar’s body of work and Lichtenstein’s hyper fixation on WASP comic book women are clear. In the same way that Lichtenstein studied the mass media portrayal of the 1960s (white) womanhood, Qamar incorporates her personal history and culture as a means of exploring contemporary femininity as a woman of color.

“I try to mirror experiences that I’ve seen. It’s really a reflection of: ‘look at how ridiculous you look when you do something like this… You don’t want to be that guy… You don’t want to be the person policing other women.’”

PC: Richard Taittinger Gallery |Maria Qamar: Kalu Jadu

Qamar continued:

“It’s time for us to reclaim spaces for us to feel safe, as women, as women of color.”

Qamar is fascinated with the similarities between Lichtenstein’s work and the melodrama of Indian soap operas. Qamar stated that if you compare a Lichtenstein piece to a dramatic cut in a soap opera, the effect is virtually the same. Qamar continued:

“It’s the exact same reaction. It’s so dramatic, it’s so colorful–like, OH MY GOD! But it’s coming from two different sides of the world. When I looked at that, I thought: that’s exactly who I am. I’m a mix of these two cultures that I both call home.”

PC: Richard Taittinger Gallery | Maria Qamar: Bad Influence

Born in Pakistan, Qamar moved to Ontario at the age of nine. Growing up as a South Asian girl in Canada was difficult, and Qamar cites her experiences being bullied as one of the largest influences on her art being a form of therapy.

She isn’t interested in translating her work for the sake of the comfort of white audiences. Her main piece of advice for fellow young artists is to collaborate whenever possible and to be kind to one another.

PC: Richard Taittinger Gallery | Maria Qamar (@hatecopy): Aurat

“There’s a lot of the sense of ‘me me me’ in the world of social media, and you forget that there are other people who live other lives… Everything is so centered around you, you can begin to feel isolated in your own experiences. Build and really pay attention to your friendships.”

And, most importantly:

“Call your friends — don’t text — call.”

Make sure you pop out to Qamar’s show in the LES at the Richard Taittinger Gallery. It’s on thru Sept. 2.


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