The evocative combination of imagery, text, and political statement embedded in Shirin Neshat's Shameless results in a powerfully poetic image that captures the non-violent nature of women's resistance in the artist's native Iran. The strong, dark, and determined eyes that pierce the composition control the expressive features of the rest of the face. The highly tonal nature of the shadows that are cast across her insistent expression is then overlaid with minute lines of Farsi text, evoking the complex layers of intellectual and religious forces that shape the identity of Muslim women throughout the world. The uncovered face, itself a powerful political statement, is placed in close proximity to a microphone, the type often used for radio broadcasts or for addressing large crowds. By remaining silent, despite being offered the possibility of speech, Neshat highlights the silent dignity of her subject.
Executed in 1997, the year before Neshat won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial, Shameless forms part of the artist's iconic images of the place of women in the Islamic world. Her works never seeks to covert or coerce the viewer to a particular point of view; they merely seek to raise, as the artist puts it, "[the] question of the separation of the sexes and its relationship to the issue of social control and ideology" (S. Neshat, as quoted by F. Milani, "The Visual Poetry of Shirin Neshat," Shirin Neshat, exh. cat., New York, 2001, p. 8). This compelling image, aesthetically beautiful and ideologically complex, serves to encourage an exchange of ideas about the status of women in Islamic society, while contributing to a broader cross-cultural dialogue.