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Lifting the veil 

Dream inspires show that explores female oppression

Few of us have the kind of fluid relationship between dreams and action that Atlanta artist Diane Hause possesses.

"I take my dreams seriously," says the 50-year-old multimedia artist and Atlanta College of Art instructor, who acts on the nocturnal provocations of her unconscious. Most recently Hause transformed a single dream into a life-altering art project and act of self-education.

More than two years ago, Hause awakened one morning with a vision that haunted her.

"I woke up and thought, 'I need to paint that,'" says Hause. That was an image of a woman reduced to a pair of eyes, the rest of her body and identity obscured by a veil. The chilling dream-vision has since been commemorated in Hause's "Freedom Flight," an image that has the spooky surrealism of Dal' or a Zeppelin album cover, of four women reduced to featureless black-clad ciphers set against a blue sky and sand dune.

After that fateful dream, Hause began to research the veil and its frequent use in the Middle East as a form of fundamentalist censorship. Thinly Veiled Misogyny is a one-woman show of paintings, sculpture, collage and photography that treats Hause's interest in the veil as a form of oppression. An exhibition that seemingly consumes Hause's life, Thinly Veiled Misogyny is currently displayed on the ground floor level of her Castleberry studio cum gallery cum home, Haustudio.

Hause's paintings and collages are steeped in imagery of confinement and threat -- in the strictures of the Koran and the erasure of the veil, in tigers with a tiny Bin Laden reflected in one golden eye.

After Sept. 11, as greater attention shifted to the plight of the veiled woman, Hause's project has taken on a new urgency. With Afghanistan and its women now making headlines, Hause has found her perhaps-esoteric interest in female oppression suddenly provoking public debates. And despite promises of a new form of government and a liberated female population in Afghanistan, Hause is versed enough in the historical repression of women under fundamentalist Islam to remain skeptical. Recent reports have suggested that even though the Taliban have been overthrown in Afghanistan, women still cling to the burka, insecure about how much will really change with a new Northern Alliance government.

While Afghan women on public streets are an anonymous unidentifiable mass, Hause represents the kind of American woman who boldly revels in her individuality. It is clear the blatant, vicious oppression of Afghan women is a shocking personal affront to a woman like Hause, used to the kind of self-expression and self-discovery denied so many others. The artist shows signs of her own radical past in a blond bob streaked with pink. "I'm an old hippie -- I lived in my van, I was a hitchhiker, I've lived in a tent," she laughs. An infectious personality with a life history that reads like a Barbara Kingsolver novel, Hause can seduce you with the sheer exuberance of her beliefs. Hause's enthusiasm for somehow documenting women's oppression in her artwork tumbles from her as she describes her growing fascination with the plight of Afghan women.

An impassioned advocate for fighting social injustice, Hause is donating all proceeds from the sale of her work in Veiled Misogyny to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, an organization she has been involved with since 1999.

One of RAWA's greatest spokeswomen, playwright Eve Ensler learned of Hause's Veiled Misogyny work through the artist's Haustudio.com website, and began a long-distance communication with the artist that will culminate in Ensler's appearance at Thinly Veiled Misogyny Feb. 5. In town to promote a private premiere of the HBO film of her play The Vagina Monologues, Ensler will speak at Haustudio during a special preview of Thinly Veiled Misogyny (which opens Feb. 8).

For one day, Haustudio will expand its already capacious function as home and gallery to serve as a political soapbox and a political rally aimed at raising money and awareness for RAWA. The Imperial Fez will donate a feast to the sneak preview to show support for RAWA, and musician Michelle Malone will perform at the show's official opening Feb. 8. For Ensler and Hause, the experience of veiled women is only a frightening extension of what occurs on a daily basis all around the world, where women are continually victims of rape, incest and violence.

Says Hause, "Something is going on here and now on this planet. I don't know what it is, but I want to be aware of it if it's happening."

Eve Ensler will speak at a special sneak preview of Thinly Veiled Misogyny Feb. 5 from 2-4 p.m. at 3Ten Haustudio, 310 Peters St. For directions, visit www.haustudio.com or call 404-524-6541.

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