Video Artist: Visions Of An Orthodox Beauty

A huge black petunia blooms in the desert. Mist rises from its center. Its petals ripple. Wait, it's not a petunia; it's a circle of people. People in chadors, the head-to-toe black coverings of orthodox Muslim women. It's not mist; it's dust. They're on their knees, digging in the sand. The scene--from Passage, Shirin Neshat's newest video, a collaboration with composer Phillip Glass--is starkly beautiful, revealing itself slowly, as in a glass, darkly.

It's difficult to pin down exactly what makes the videos of Iranian-born Neshat so astonishing. Part of their freshness must be that they offer a view of a...

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