Safia Latif is an oil painter based in California. Her work creatively reimagines Islamic narratives and concepts using visible brushwork and an emphasis on light and color. Latif has pioneered the practice of “Islamicate Impressionism,” a novel style that is recognizably painterly and conceptually draws on the social and cultural phenomena associated with the Muslim world from Morocco to Indonesia. Latif’s work emerges as a departure from traditional Islamic art known for hyperdetailed miniature paintings and calligraphic and arabesque designs. Instead, she focuses on visual sensations of Islamic themes, highlighting the inherently cosmopolitan nature of Islam and conveying a sense wonder and beauty.
Latif earned an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and began a PhD in religion, focusing on the notion of piety as a form of social capital for Muslim women in the medieval world. Though she enjoyed academia, she was always drawn to art and decided instead to use her knowledge of Islamic history to inform a meaningful body of work. Her paintings reflect a personal openness to faith likely owing to her diasporic background as the daughter of an American Russian Jewish convert to Islam and a Pakistani Muslim immigrant.