The first thing that struck me about a large body of her work, was the beautiful and textural way in which she embroiders. Her canvasses are multimedia fiberworks with a great transformation between acrylic and embroidery, or drawn line and thread, it's really different in this sense.
The diversity of her tackling a themes such as gender and society is of particular interest. From the sewn stereotypical bodies in Barbie Loves Ken, Ken Loves Barbie (image 1), to Les Maries (image 2) and then to Red Diagonales (image 3) - all completely different approaches...
There's an interesting site article on inscribing the body. http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/inscribing/body.html . The site quotes: "Ghada Amer addresses text and the body through embroidery. She uses this quintessential female art form to portray complex ideas about gender stereotypes and identity. By embroidering two body suits with texts that repeatedly declare "Barbie loves Ken, Ken loves Barbie",
she assigns male/female identities to two androgynous figures. In this way Amer questions gender roles, especially those based on popular American icons."
I think that sums it up pretty well for much of her pieces. The use of embroidery is a very female craft which she certainly exploits in her more sexual pieces, such as Trini (below).
I particularly like this piece because along with the overtly sexual linework, in very 'primal' colours (red and black and blue), there is one figure in there, looking away from the audience... fairly demurely (well, that's what it looks like until you navigate through the lines and find another face (blue and yellow) looking up at her - more like you're catching them in the middle of a sexual act. Most of her women look directly at the viewer (like you're in a peepshow)... or closed eyes, as if you're even more the voyeur (like a peeping tom). This piece just keeps you looking and looking - more is revealed by colour and line, and more of what she is presenting becomes apparent.
She's using the painting, drawing, sculpture, performance and installation pieces to present you with erotic motifs - mostly recognisable - and often presenting women as auto-erotic and self sufficent rather than passive and powerless beings. Initially I felt she was exploiting the 'sex sells' pornographic approach to art, but there is much to be said about looking at a crafted piece with so much richness and irony and realising she's making a very clear statement about feminism.
"Feminism can be empowered by seduction" (Ghada Amer, in Feb-Mar 2000 edition of Elle Decor)