Kate Sikorski Displays "Burkini Surf" Series at Santa Ana Art Gallery

Kate Sikorski .jpg
Kate Sikorski
Ms. Wareh post surf sesh
A passion for art and surfing along with a dose of political awareness influenced artist Kate Sikorski's series of portraits called "Burkini Surf" themed on Muslim American women surfing in burkinis, head-to-toe swimsuits that some Muslim women choose to wear for the purpose of modesty.

The 28-year-old Tustin native said there were some reasons she wanted to place the two worlds together. One being that these Muslim women really stand out in the water compared to other surfers--an act Sikorski extols as social bravery. She also wanted to change the perception of Muslim women from "the other" to who they really are--everyday Americans--because public distrust of Muslims still lingers in America.

"I feel that people are still kind of angry and afraid of Muslims right now," she said. "I guess the best way to portray Muslims to be what they most often are in Orange County is to put them in non-threatening situations like surfing, which is super nonviolent; it's women having fun."

Those works will appear at a Santa Ana art gallery as part of Sikorski's first solo exhibition titled, "Blackies to Seal and Everywhere in Between," referencing the different surf spots in North OC.

Sikorski gave free surf lessons to the women--all of whom are from Orange County--and took pictures of them sitting in different poses before, during and after surfing. She used a canvas of wood panels collected from various beach piers and applied fabric from board shorts and other surf wear as a medium. Sikorski said she was intrigued by the courage it takes for women to learn a mostly male-dominated sport, let alone wearing a headscarf and a burkini while doing so.

"I'm interested in women who are socially brave, and who just put themselves out there even if they trip and fall, they're going to do it anyway because it makes their lives more rich," she said. 

"Blackies to Seal and Everywhere in Between" opens Saturday, June 2 at 7 p.m. and runs until 10 p.m. during the Santa Ana art walk at Kavika Works gallery, 731 Pointsettia Street, Santa Ana.

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Kate Sikorski
Kate Sikorski

 Hi Sana, I don't feel that as an outsider anyone should know or care what my stance on this topic is. As an American, I value free speech and the fact that much was being said and presumed about this group of women, yet they themselves were not being heard, drew me to this project. I went into it more as an artist-researcher, my interest in exposing the other side of the argument that the public had not gotten to hear (including myself). I was surprised to find that the majority of women I drew did not come from families who supported them wearing the hijab. Many of the women I drew said that they started wearing it late in life, after 9/11, in reaction to the rise in bigotry against Arab Americans in general. I was a respectful listener and as objective as possible, especially because this history is not my own (although my father did tell me stories about when he lived in Iran as a child and as an adult). I strove to facilitate play in the outdoors for adult women who were going to wear the hijab whether I supported their behavior or not. Thank you for sharing your well thought out arguments--when art engages people in important discussions, I think it's doing its job! -Kate Sikorski

Sana Taif
Sana Taif

The burqini is not some liberating feminist symbol. It is a symbol of the oppression of women by Islam. The hijab and burqa are used by Islam to hide woman. The onus is on women to hide their hair and bodies from all but the men that own them. Men don't have to wear burqinis. Only women have to and the reason is so that they don't tempt men! One would hope that men could be strong enough on their own and not create and propagate a practice of having women hide themselves to avoid temptation.   It shows how far Western progressives have fallen when they celebrate the unequal covering of women in public. My own theory is that an unquestioned and distorted dogmatic multiculturalism (and don't get me wrong multiculturalism can be a good thing - if it is taking the positive aspects of a culture) is behind Kate Sikorski's misplaced celebration.   Maybe Kate Sikorski could spend a day in Iran where she would be imprisoned and beat for not covering herself. But then again, isn't covering and hiding her femininity now a new form of feminism????

mitch young
mitch young

This 'project' is idiotic.

First, the 'burkini' is nothing like a burkha, which is so loose as to conceal the woman's shape *plus* has full face coverage. 

Second, a full body wet suit, with hood, would be no more or less revealing that these 'burkini' thingees. So the whole deal of wearing one is precisely to show yourself off as 'the Other'.

Third, it is so obviously artificial. I'll bet few to no of these women would be surfing other than at the behest of Sikorski.

Kate Sikorski
Kate Sikorski

Hi Mitch,

Thanks for your comment. I didn't pressure any of these women to surf, one was already into surfing and the rest contacted me because they had always wanted to try surfing and heard I was giving free lessons to local Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab.

I naturally tried to use regular wetsuit hoods, but those things totally choke your neck and make you sweaty. More importantly, the women I went surfing with didn't want to wear these because they also didn't like the way they looked. For women, looking cute makes us confident, and each of these women had thin, soft, colorful scarves that they like the look of themselves in.

"Burkini" is a word I adopted to make this project accessible to non-Muslims. It sounds like "bikini" (referencing the beach) and "burqa", to most non-Muslims, is just something that Muslim women wear. If you google "burkini" you will find that this word has existed well before my project to label a loose-fitting modest swimming outfit.

I found that most Muslim locals liked wearing a swim skirt over a regular wetsuit, and sometimes we also added a loose rash guard on top because as you know wetsuits are tight and revealing on their own. The women usually wore booties, too, just for the sake of warmth.

Thanks again for your feedback, Mitch! I appreciate the discussion. You can find my stuff on Facebook under "Kate Sikorski Art"



Kate: Gracias for your comment, but don't waste your energy on our resident anti-gay white supremacist...

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