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The Power of Partnership

Power of Partnership

James Joyce called it an epiphany, that moment, known to all of us, when life or some form of intuition seems to spark a new idea or creative endeavor.

Mine began as a spark and consumed me for the better part of last year– just when I was ready to take a sabbatical from writing.

“Let’s take a year off and concentrate on growing Visionary Women nonprofit,” I told myself.  I certainly have spent a good deal of time with my fellow co-founders in creating a dynamic women’s leadership platform in Los Angeles, and I am happy to announce that the hard work has paid off.

But just a few months into my sabbatical, I jumped right in and started reading the biographies of important change makers.  And then, out of nowhere, it struck me!  So many of the women I have written about have had fathers or men as their mentors, allies, and partners.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Shirin Neshat, Malala Yousafzai, Marina Abramovic, Amelia Earhart, Miuccia Prada, and Marie Curie are but a few women in my previous book, Visionary Women, who had a male figure or partner steadfastly supporting their work and advocacy.

And this flash of an idea was the catalyst for my year-long research and exploration on the dynamics of male-female partnerships.

It is uncanny, how this topic has captured our attention in the past few months. Men and women in every part of the world are struggling to come to terms with the global epidemic of sexual violence and the opportunities and challenges of gender dynamics.

The current state of affairs only creates a much-needed sense of urgency to discuss the ways in which men can become (and many are indeed) our potential allies and supporters in women’s growth.

Considering this momentum, I find it most interesting to step back and take a closer look at the dynamics of some of the world’s most important male-female partnerships.

How have partnerships changed through time? What are the varying dynamics of some of the world’s most important partnerships? What happens when the female partner has been the focus of attention or vice versa? And, most importantly what makes for a gratifying and productive partnership? Some of my case studies will be husband and wife teams, while others will be partners in work only.

Above all, one quality seems to stand out more than any other—partnerships are energized by a shared purpose and a desire for collective success. And when partners bring out the best qualities in the other and complement each other’s strengths, the output and creativity is exponential.

As Rei Kawakubo, the revolutionary founder of Commes de Garcon, once said in a Wall Street Journal interview, ”Collaborations have no meaning if 1 + 1 does not equal much more than 2.”

Just recently, while I was going through the vast TED TALKS library, I came across a fabulous duo— Conservationists and National Geographic Explorers in Residence, Beverly and Dereck Joubert. You will find their collaboration to be simply exhilarating and inspiring!

[To view this TED TALK, click here.]

For nearly three decades, the pair has celebrated nature and wildlife in documentaries, books, scientific journals, photographs and magazine articles. The couple’s arresting visual work has earned them five Emmys

Their life’s work validates the famous saying: “If you want to go fast, work alone. But if you want to go far, work with others.”

So, here I go! I will start the new year with writing my new book on partnerships!

At the Cutting Edge of Art

David, my husband, says that when I am on a mission, there is no stopping me.  Well, he knows me best! Do you think after taking a red eye from Los Angeles and having a couple of meetings right after I land, I would go to my hotel room to rest? Are you kidding? I went straight to MOMA, where I was looking forward to seeing 2 exhibits in particular: Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography and Marina Abromovic’s performance art.

As an avid photographer and a big admirer of Bresson’s work (I once gave a first edition of his photography book to a dear friend of mine), I was just thrilled to see the range of his photographic work displayed at the museum.  His portraits and the pictures taken when traveling throughout China, Mexico, Spain, Morocco, and even Iran was just breathtaking. His eye is impeccable and his sense of timing is just right. He managed to capture the essence of the moment, and the prevailing feeling of the situation in such a masterly way. No wonder he is called the best photographer of the century.  Here is a little article my friend, Patricia Zohn wrote about this exhibition in the Huffington Post.

Abromovic’s performance art is other-worldly. If one doesn’t understand what this grand artist is aiming for, one would think it is masochistic and  at times even pornographic. Be ready to see nudity and lots of it in this show. I think Abromovic is a remarkable artist, pushing the boundaries of courage, conceptual art, while having the viewers be participants in the art.  The funniest moment for me was when I was getting ready to go through this entrance to a hall, where a nude man and woman were standing by.  There is no other way to get into the exhibition hall but to squeeze past these two naked people, which was the entire point. I was 5 feet away from the man and woman when my phone rang! My friend asked me if she had called at a bad time. I paused and said, “Well, I am looking at two naked people right now. Can I call you back?” Of course, we were both hysterically laughing at this awkward moment. And of course, I explained to her that I was at the MOMA exhibit!  Here is an article and some clips of the Abromovic exhibition:

I guarantee you, it is an experience.

My third art stop was visiting Leyla Taghinia Milani Heller’s Gallery.  When I was in NY in August, I got a chance to visit the Chelsea Museum’s Iranian Art exhibit that was curated by her. I also read a glowing article in the New York Times about Leyla and her gallery. So of course, I went to the gallery in the summer. But this time, I was lucky to catch her in town, as she is often traveling for art fairs.  She is no doubt one of the most important dealers in Iranian Contemporary Art, and her gallery was showing an exhibit of Shoja Azari’s work.

I have been a fan of Shoja’s work and he is getting a lot of press on this new exhibit.  Here is the NY Times Article on Shoja and his latest work:

There is no substitute to having an artist himself explain his work. I was fortunate that Shoja was at hand in the gallery.  Shoja talked about each piece at length, explaining the roots of his work and his inspiration in his characteristically friendly and warm manner.  What strikes the viewer is his straightforward iconoclastic gesture, the replacement of the the face of ordinary women for the image of saints in Shi’i iconography. This video instillation projected onto the icons makes these faces actually come alive and make subtle motions.  As I told Shoja myself, “I can’t take my eyes off these images. The faces truly come alive.”  There is a deeper philosophical and political undertone to his art, which in reality creates a dialogue for Iran’s tradition of using sacred iconography and for the current political involvement of women in the country. These images surely stayed with me long after I left the gallery, which proves that he has found of wellspring of powerful images to construct his form of expression around.