Showing posts with label Art-work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art-work. Show all posts

October 18, 2019

'This Paintings Show The Fear in All Of Us': A Syrian Artist Speaks

Rashwan Abdelbaki. Title: Number 7. 31.49 x 61.02 inch. Acrylic On Canvas. 2016.
“Number 7″, by Rashwan Abdelbaki. 31.49 x 61.02 inch. Acrylic On Canvas. 2016.
While the portrait of Syria has been painted in the media mostly with images of war and destruction, Syrian artist Rashwan Abdelbaki has sought opportunities to challenge stereotypes and perceptions that ignore or disregard a country that “has provided much to enrich human civilization” and “represents a wonderful mosaic of more than 18 religions.”
Born in the southern Syrian city of As-Suwayda and now living in New York, Abdelbaki, 35, began showing interest in the arts from his teenage years. In 2003, he found his way to the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus, where he received a bachelor’s degree in printmaking techniques.
His works explore some of the most pressing issues of our time including immigration, racism, religion, and politics, with vivid colors and dynamic interactions creating an ongoing conversation and capturing the imagination of his audiences.
Last Supper, First Wall. 78.74 x 129.92 inch. Acrylic On Canvas. 2017.
“Last Supper”, by Rashwan Abdelbaki. First Wall. 78.74 x 129.92 inch. Acrylic On Canvas. 2017.
In September 2016, Abdelbaki received a one-year fellowship from the Institute of International Education’s Artist Protection Fund (IIE-APF) that led to his becoming an affiliated fellow at the American Academy in Rome. In January 2017, a week before President Donald Trump unveiled his “travel ban” restricting people from mainly Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, Abdelbaki arrived in New York to continue the IIE-APF fellowship, hosted by ArteEast and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts.
Since July 2018, Abdelbaki has been a member of the artist-at-risk program at the Westbeth Artists Community, which provides affordable live and workspaces. The program was created by the New York City Safe Residency Program and is led by a coalition of groups supporting freedom of expression.
In an interview with Global Voices in New York, Abdelbaki said that he uses painting, etching, ‎engraving, digital art, installation and video to express what he sees as the “negative effects of racism, religion, and politics that are all striving to divide us and destroy our faith in humanity.”
I had the opportunity to interview Abdelbaki in August 2019. Excerpts from the interview follow:
Omid Memarian: How have years of war in Syria influenced and affected Syrian artists, and you in particular?
Rashwan Abdelbaki: The war has had a negative impact on everyone, especially economically and security-wise, prompting many to leave the country in search of new opportunities. After my graduation from college in Syria, my primary interest was music, exploring the relationship between the musician and the instrument. At the time, my art was filled with music, joy, light, and theater. But in 2011, I started to feel the changes that war brought to my country. On a personal level and as an artist, the war confused a lot of ideas within me, and my vision of things changed. I began to think more about the dangers that threaten our common humanity. My focus shifted to questions regarding the negative effects of racism, religion, and politics that are all striving to divide and destroy our faith in humanity.
Emptiness, 2016 Acrylic On Canvas 120 x 150 cm
“Emptiness”, by Rashwan Abdelbaki. Acrylic On Canvas. 120 x 150 cm. 2016.
OM: What differences do you see in the body of work you created prior to migrating to the U.S. and after you moved here?
RA: Before I came to the U.S., my paintings were focused on human environments and the relationships between different groups of people, sometimes the full body in paintings like Wedding Night and Early Marriage. The first painting I created in New York was Last Supper, First Wall. This painting was in response to Executive Order 13769 [President Trump’s travel ban] that limited my mobility and later became worse by requiring me to either leave or stay. Jesus asked that we all act with and honor humanity. Our response has only been to continue to build walls between us. Then I began to focus more on the face, the open eye, and physical lines that represent our abilities and freedom in paintings like One Line, Crossed Line, and Safety Line. In these works, there is a clear, physical line above the human who looks like he is drowning but still holding on to hope.
OM: In many of your paintings, people have one eye and in general, the face seems disfigured. What do these figures say about your understanding of the human condition and the important issues of our time?
RA: In the portraits, I am speaking to the fear inside us all that keeps us awake, even when we want to close our eyes and sleep in peace. But because of what we are witnessing now—violence, wars, and racism—we need to keep one eye open to know what’s happening around us, to be ready for any shocks or surprises. I put a circle around the open eye in my portraits to draw attention to the eye. These people, like all people, are also prisoners of their own beliefs, so I paint them with striped garments in empty cells. They cannot see beyond the space of their beliefs. This is the current state of our world and humanity today due to religious conflicts, corrupt politicians and their misuse of power, as well as discrimination.
Rashwan Abdelbaki. Title: Women. Acrylic On Canvas. 150 x 150 cm. 2016.
” Women”, by Rashwan Abdelbaki. Acrylic On Canvas. 150 x 150 cm. 2016.
OM: In many of your paintings and sketches, there seems to be a sense of curiosity and searching for the relationship between individuals and their surroundings. The direction of heads and eyes, and interactions with others in Love, as well as Last Supper, First Wall and Number 7 creates an overarching theme embedded beneath your use of vivid colors. What inspired you to create these works? 
RA: It's true, in the very beginning I was trying more to identify the character (one open eye, one eye closed) through physical relationships and empty spaces—to represent a scene, sometime, somewhere. You can see that in Last Supper, First Wall and Number 7, where groups of people are gathering as if on doomsday, enclosed in interior spaces and with transfixed gazes, as if they are staring outwards but at nothing in particular.
But in the painting Love, and the paintings Safety LineWhisper, and Hope, there is something specific: man and woman, in a moment of love, with lines and barriers. They both have just one eye open and the other closed, like all the characters in my paintings, but the special characteristic here is that together they have two open eyes, and the whole scene becomes clearer, like they are protecting one another.
The colors in all these paintings are impressionistic or abstract sometimes, like what's happening around the world. I use them to refer to different political parties or religions, and you can see that in these characters and their stripes. But I also use them to create a vision of hope that I am looking for and want to give to others.
OM: The color palette you use is appealing and inviting, but some of the concepts you deal with are unsettling, like Music on Paper 4 or Emptiness. What was your thought process in creating these situations?
RA: I understand what you mean by “unsettling.” In the prints that come from other concepts than what Emptiness came from, there’s an insistence on reduction of elements, so we are looking at a symbolic representation of the thing rather than the thing itself. Likewise, in these paintings there’s a strong stylization, a canonization of formal elements to essentialist tropes. There are always one or two figures in a room within a garish color palette that appears to suggest confinement and violence. I think I am personally not far from all this. In many cases, I reflect my “unsettled” state from that feeling I had back in the days when I was working on music, to process that unsettled feeling of fear that I’ve had in the last couple years. I want to understand the illusion created by this fear within me, and how to defeat it.
This is My Place. Acrylic On Canvas. 150 x 200 cm. 2016.
“This is My Place”, by Rashwan Abdelbaki.. Acrylic On Canvas. 150 x 200 cm. 2016.
OM: How has living for the past two years in New York changed you as an artist? Are there things that you see differently now regarding art and identity issues as well as geography and politics?
RA: Traveling and living in New York has helped me become acquainted with new civilizations, cultures, languages, music and so on. I was unable to learn about them in my motherland except through the internet or news. Here I learned more about my artistic mission by interacting with people in the U.S. and Europe. When they saw the face with one open eye and one closed eye, it touched them, and from their comments I felt their need for safety, peace, and love.

Written byOmid Memarian

April 16, 2019

Live view from Paris after fire ravages Notre Dame

Not much to say at this moment except I stood in its steps and admired its majesty-Adam

January 14, 2019

Lin-Manuel Explodes His Talents in Puerto Rico and It Also Shows How Fragile This Beautiful Island is

 By Peter Marks. Published from Adamfoxie's Subscription (paid by reader F.Wright) on the Washington Post
With Lin-Manuel Miranda once again as its star, the celebrated Broadway hit “Hamilton” opened for business in Puerto Rico this weekend — that business being the bolstering of the hopes and finances of a beleaguered U.S. territory mired in debt and still reeling from the devastation wreaked 16 months ago by Hurricane Maria. 
The first performance on Friday night of the Tony-winning musical at the Centro de Bellas Artes in the heart of the island’s capital city betokened one of the most extraordinary events in the history of the nation’s performing arts. Here was a show arriving not merely to entertain, but also to serve a humanitarian mission: raising money for the relief effort. But the quest was also to draw the world’s attention to an American outpost that has long felt neglected by the country that owns it, and especially so in the aftermath of a disaster that traumatized the island.
Lin Manuel Miranda returns to the stage as Alexander Hamilton in Puerto Rico
“Hamilton” composer Lin-Manuel Miranda performed in San Juan, Puerto Rico Jan. 11 as part of a three-week run of his show to raise money and encourage tourism. 
Miranda’s mission achieved an emotional crescendo as a new “Hamilton” touring production — the musical’s sixth incarnation — celebrated its official opening to the hurrahs of an exuberant sellout crowd. When the actor made his entrance, during the introductory number, “Alexander Hamilton,” it was the audience that stopped the show, with a prolonged, thunderous ovation. At the curtain call nearly three hours later, Miranda once again brought down the house, with a teary speech that ended with him pulling a large Puerto Rican flag from under his costume and holding it aloft. 
“I just love the island so much,” he said during a post-show news conference, “and I just want it to be proud of me.”
The special 23-performance visit of “Hamilton” to Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island of 3.5 million people that’s not a normal stop for Broadway productions, was indeed a labor of love for Miranda and his father, Luis Miranda, a Puerto Rican native who made a name for himself in New York City Democratic politics. They prevailed upon the producers and investors of the show — which brings in as much as $4 million a week on Broadway alone — to donate the entire proceeds of the San Juan engagement, after operating expenses, to a fund for struggling Puerto Rican artists and arts institutions. The fund, administered by the local Flamboyan Foundation, which also has a Washington arm, stands to receive $15 million from the “Hamilton” run, according to Luis Miranda. 
“I’m so happy that he brought us this art, which means so much to us as Puerto Ricans, not just as Americans,” said Roberto Ramos Perea, a well-known playwright and director here who heads the theater program at Ateneo Puertorriqueño, the island’s oldest arts institution and a repository for its dramatic literature through the centuries. “This guy,” Perea said of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “has made something difficult to do: to capture the attention of the whole world for us.”

Puerto Rico playwright and director Roberto Ramos Perea heads the theater program at the Ateneo Puertorriqueño, the island’s oldest arts institution and a repository for its dramatic literature. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/For The Washington Post)
It’s difficult to come up with a precedent for a Broadway musical undergirding a movement for disaster relief and political recognition of a problem in quite the way “Hamilton” has. As Luis Miranda explained, his son already had spearheaded the raising of $43 million in disaster relief for the Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit group that seeks to strengthen Latino institutions. Devoting an entire run to addressing the crisis raises the stakes in a way unheard of in commercial theater.
“He’s bringing to the forefront of the political agenda the issues of Puerto Rico more effectively than anyone else is doing,” Roberto Prats, a former senator and head of the Democratic Party here, said of Miranda. 
Or as Brad Dean, chief executive of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s nonprofit tourism organization, put it: “The grand opportunity is to turn Lin-Manuel’s gift into an impact that goes far beyond the three weeks of the visit.”
Some residents resent local authorities’ bending over backward for “Hamilton”: When a plan fell through at the last minute to stage the production in a historic theater on the campus of Luis Miranda’s alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico, the government immediately cleared a path to move “Hamilton” to the Centro de Bellas Artes. That left the university in the lurch, as the renovations to its theater — aided by a $1 million donation from the Mirandas — have not been completed.
“We haven’t seen support like that from any administration except now, for ‘Hamilton,’ ” said Aida Belén Rivera-Ruiz, a UPR professor. “I would like to see them flourish with support for local productions.” 
Still, the Mirandas’ efforts are being widely hailed in the arduous campaign to get the island back on its feet. Hurricane Maria caused the deaths of nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans and left widespread damage, both to property and to psyches. Last year, an estimated 100,000 residents left for the U.S. mainland, according to Edwin Meléndez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. And the talent drain is hitting hard in the artistic and professional classes.
The island’s enduring fiscal disaster — a $70 billion debt load that led to the imposition by Congress of a board, known here as “the junta,” to put curbs on government spending — has only exacerbated the sense of ongoing emergency.
“How can you have a recovery when your tax base is eroding by the day?” Meléndez said. “It’s important,” he added of the spotlight “Hamilton” is putting on the island, “because rebuilding Puerto Rico hasn’t started yet. The major reconstruction funding is trickling down very slowly.”
A shrine to a hometown hero
If there’s one thing the Mirandas know how to do these days, it’s command attention. A half-hour drive from San Juan, along the island’s northern coast, is Vega Alta, the hometown of the extended Miranda family, which has become a tourist destination for Lin-Manuel’s fans. In a sweet little plaza, or “placita,” on Luis Muñoz Rivera Street, the Mirandas have established a kind of homespun Lin-Manuel shrine. An outdoor cafe, some small food stands, a souvenir shop and a “Museo Miranda” (Miranda Museum) host visitors who sip smoothies while gazing at a giant mosaic portrait of Lin-Manuel, posed like a revolutionary hero. In the museum, several of his entertainment awards are displayed, along with other portraits.

Tourists and “Hamilton” fans Dave and Kathy Mullen of Madison, Wis., pose for a selfie in front of a mural honoring Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Miranda family’s Purto Rican hometown of Vega Alta. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/For The Washington Post)
“It grew out of being a New Yorker and living in small spaces,” Luis Miranda said with a laugh during a morning interview in the lobby of the Luis A. Ferré auditorium at the Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan, as the “Hamilton” cast was rehearsing inside. “We had the space in Puerto Rico, so why not store it there, in a display way?” 
Back in Vega Alta, while Luis’s brother Elvin and sister Yamila chatted up visitors and talked to vendors, a tour group 20 or so strong sat at tables in the museum, having lunch and peeking at the memorabilia. “I just adored his talent — I think he’s one unique dude,” said Roxene Pierce, a retired high school Spanish teacher from Iowa City who had bought a tour package that included stops in Vega Alta and at a Bacardi rum distillery, as well as a ticket to “Hamilton.”
Dave and Kathy Mullen, from Madison, Wis. — he’s a software architect and she advises seniors on how to downsize — drove out to Vega Alta on their own. They said their trip to Puerto Rico was occasioned both by a love of “Hamilton” and a desire to put their tourist dollars to work in a destination that needed help. “It’s very difficult not to respond positively to Lin,” Dave Mullen said. 
You sensed time and again in talking to visitors — 90 percent of the tourists are from the mainland — that people have indeed responded to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his family in a deeply personal way.
“I had plans to come to Puerto Rico,” explained Pierce, “because [the Mirandas] asked us to come to Puerto Rico.”
The power of art
It’s hard to calculate the extent of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fame: Puerto Ricans say that even here, his renown, as yet, is concentrated in cosmopolitan circles, rather than across the spectrum of island society. Still, with television appearances and his role in the new Disney movie “Mary Poppins Returns,” his visibility continues to rise, and his intention seems to be to harness that popular appeal for key causes, such as his foray into cultural diplomacy and humanitarian aid.
At the packed news conference Friday night, Puerto Rican reporters posed the kind of questions asked of political candidates: What did he think about the debt problem? What about crime? How did he feel about the Trump administration’s threat to take money away from Puerto Rican disaster aid to pay for the wall? Miranda, still reeling from the emotions of performing — during a number called “Hurricane,” he said, he’d had trouble maintaining his composure — seemed a bit overwhelmed by it all. 
“Lin has always been extremely cautious about choosing his political causes,” said Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater in New York, where “Hamilton” had its world premiere in February 2015. “He has taken Puerto Rico’s safety, health and social policy as a central political policy of his own.” According to Eustis, Lin-Manuel and his politically astute father “believe it's a cause that has no downside.”
Like other figures central to “Hamilton’s” development — from lead producer Jeffrey Seller, to Ron Chernow, on whose biography of Hamilton Miranda based the musical, to actors Leslie Odom Jr., Anthony Ramos and Jasmine Cephas Jones from the original cast — Eustis came to San Juan to witness this historic musical-theater moment. Questlove and Shonda Rhimes were there, too, on Friday night; Oprah Winfrey will soon be on her way; Jimmy Fallon will broadcast from San Juan next week; and a congressional delegation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is said to be arriving, too.
“If you can marry politics, government need and the arts, ‘Hamilton’ is the perfect scenario for that to happen,” said Prats, who is planning a run for governor in 2020. A die-hard “Hamilton” fan, Prats sees much to savor, and learn from, in the story of a Caribbean-born immigrant who helps lead colonies to financial independence.
“I’m going to quote a line from the show,” he said. “­ ‘Raise a glass to the four of us; tomorrow there’ll be more of us.’ We raise a glass to Lin-Manuel and hope that tomorrow, there’ll be more of him.”
My apollogies to Lin-Manuel Miranda. I also thought you were gay 😕

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