Why She’s Interesting: In 2017, the artist and Kent State University professor nabbed a highly competitive, national Guggenheim Fellowship, which is awarded to exemplary artists, including many poet laureates, Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medal winners. She won the fellowship for her multimedia work that reclaims the gray shapes of U.S. attack drones by covering them with Pakistani cultural iconography that bursts with color.
Globe-Trotter: Born in Pakistan, Chishty spent much of her childhood in Saudi Arabia. She trained as a miniature painter, working to emulate the small, brightly colored panels passed down from Mughal emperors while getting her degree at the National College of Art in Lahore, Pakistan. “I was drawn to the idea of making my own paper, making my own brush from squirrel tail hair, making my own paints from grinding pigments. I don’t do any of that anymore, but it’s good to know I can do that.”
One Two: After attending graduate school at the University of Maryland College Park, Chishty returned to Pakistan for a two-week trip in 2011. The brightly painted trucks that roam the streets and the repeated drone strikes covered in the newspapers there struck her. That year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported, there were 75 strikes in Pakistan. She decided to combine those two emblematic images. “I wanted to find a way to make this topic visible, and I knew I wanted it to be loud in some way, so it would attract attention with the colors and shapes.”
Multimedia: Chishty’s Drone Series includes an animated video of a drone with a blinking eye, deeply detailed paintings that take two or three months to make and even a sculpture of a missile, festooned with gold material and red pom-poms like one of the Pakistani trucks. “[Drone warfare] affects everybody. It affects families. It’s not a topic that affects just a specific region, or gender or culture. This is affecting all of us.”
Listen Up: On Jan. 26, Chishty’s first sound installation premieres at Spaces. She approached strangers in Nebraska City, Nebraska, to read the names of Pakistanis killed in drone strikes. “People, at least they would listen, even if they would say no at the end. I thought, Well at least I have told somebody that this is what’s happening, or has happened, in that part of the world.”
Screen Time: Chishty is a fan of Netflix’s Stranger Things. “That ‘80s nostalgia, I totally relate to that. Everything about that show I loved, even though it was predictable.”
Sci-Fi Supporter: She’s trying to read more, but ends up seeing mostly sci-fi movies instead, such as Blade Runner 2049. “I like all the sci-fi, futuristic type of movies.”
Interesting Fact: One of Chishty’s Drone Series sculptures, of a Hellfire Missile, is exactly her height — 5 feet 3 inches.