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Arts & Entertainment

In Live To Tell, Artist Shayema Rahim Explores Her New Path

Rahim’s new exhibition inside the Aloft Hotel uses new techniques to express changes in her life.
By Alex Gonzalez |
Artist Shayema Rahim, whose new exhibit is being shown at the Aloft Hotel through September 22. Courtesy Shayema Rahim

Abstract artist Shayema Rahim does not shy away from raw emotions. She grew up in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, where she was encouraged by her parents to express herself through art.

Though she had a support system in her homeland, it became more difficult to lean on her loved ones once she immigrated to the United States in 1997. Rahim says this period was as rewarding as it was terrifying.

Having lived in the U.S. for more than 25 years, Rahim has endured love, heartbreak, single motherhood, and what she believes is a rebirth. After her son went to college in the fall of 2022, Rahim became an empty nester and was forced to find her sense of purpose. Rahim’s latest exhibition, Live To Tell, uses abstraction and colors to evoke emotion in the viewer.

“My art has always been impacted by the depth of human emotions,” Rahim says. “I think emotions are the essence of our existence, and the driving force behind so much of our behavior. And through my artwork, I attempted to translate these complex feelings into visual expressions that resonate with the viewers of my work.”

The exhibit, which is being hosted at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Dallas through September 22, takes inspiration from a 1986 Madonna song of the same name: “A man can tell a thousand lies / I’ve learned my lesson well / Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned / ‘Til then, it will burn inside of me.”

While the song’s lyrics allude to the distrust Madonna built up toward people around her, Rahim interpreted its title “Live To Tell” as a new life purpose, to share her story and inspire others like her.

“I think I have handled adversity pretty gracefully,” says Rahim, “so I am living to tell my story to help and inspire others.”

Over the years, Rahim has used the batik and encaustic techniques within her art, both of which involve painting with hot wax on a surface like cloth or canvas. But for Live To Tell, she used more acrylics, oils, inks, pencil drawings, and photography. 

 “Trapped In Love,” for instance, is a mixed-media work that features a net paired with an oil painting. 

“It feels like you’re trapped in that net,” says Rahim. 

Though the genesis of the story of Live To Tell came from a dark place, Rahim designed each work of art to evoke a sense of strength and positivity within the beholder. 

“Bright colors have a unique power to them,” says Rahim. “They evoke energy, joy, and optimism. And as you have seen, I use bright colors, which, I believe, have their own language. And by employing vivid hues in my art, I aim to communicate a sense of vitality and enthusiasm for life.”

Rahim has spent a lot of time doing volunteer work and taken influence from those experiences. Over the past 14 years, Rahim has volunteered for several local nonprofits like Hope’s Door, The Children’s Advocacy Center, New Beginnings, ASPCA, and Bryan’s House. Based in Dallas, Bryan’s House offers children with disabilities case management, therapy, and educational opportunities. 

Rahim discovered Bryan’s House after attending one of their fundraisers. She connected with Bryan’s House founder Stefanie Held, who is also an artist. Rahim spent time over the last year volunteering at Bryan’s House, inspired by how children with disabilities used paint and artwork to express themselves through different mediums. 

“The brushstrokes and color choice is carefully crafted to evoke a specific emotional response and to create the connection between the artwork and the observer,” she says.

Live To Tell will be on display until September 22, and Rahim will donate a portion of the proceeds to Bryan’s House.

Rahim encourages beholders of the exhibition to give back to causes that matter to them–not by way of monetary donations alone, but also by utilizing their skills, like helping bring joy to others through art. 

“Tomorrow is not guaranteed,” says Rahim. “There is a lot of negativity and we all have to learn a way to overcome that. Everybody is going through their own struggles, and I think giving back always helps.”

Aloft Hotel, 1033 Young St.


Alex Gonzalez

Alex Gonzalez

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