The Syrian Experience As Art
News of Syria fills the airwaves, newspapers, and computer screens, and Vermont bears a particular relationship to this country and its people. Less than a year ago, the city of Rutland welcomed what were to be the first two of many Syrian refugee families. The resettlement program, spearheaded by then mayor Chris Louras, was abruptly halted by the Trump administration earlier this year. Recent efforts to rekindle the program mean that Vermont could see the arrival of more Syrian families. How do we welcome them?
Adrian Tans, Gallery Director at ArtisTree in Pomfret VT says "Resettlement is, and will remain . . .a complicated issue. But with the support of public opinion it is likely that more of these families who are caught up in the horrors of conflict . . . may find peace and consolation in welcoming neighbors." And so, with the help of Louros and Castleton University's Professor Emeritus of Art Bill Ramage, Tans has staged an exhibition of The Syrian Experience As Art, a collection of the works of a dozen contemporary Syrian artists, at the ArtisTree Gallery.
From the Cultural Beheading series by architects Humam Alsalim and Rami Bakhos
The exhibition is small and spare and varied, and at an odd hour on a Friday afternoon, empty, the better to meditate without having to peer around the backs of heads. The featured photo and the one above shows the work of two young architects (Humam Alsalim and Rami Bakhos) who have collaborated on a series called Cultural Beheading that depicts the destruction of historic buildings around Palmyra. They propose the interconnections between people and their culturally significant architecture, and ponder what the role of architects may be in dealing with such mass destruction and the restoration of cultural identity.
no privacy by Julie Nakazi
Not all of Syrian art nor its artists are devoted solely to depicting the war. Like artists everywhere, they address other themes of the day. Julie Nakazi is interested in how technology affects our lives. Her no privacy plays with the iconic Gustave Klimt painting. Saying that her creativity lives in her own, highly portable, mind, she concludes "so it doesn't matter if I were in Damascus or Finland for example," but goes on to say "although 24 hours of electricity sounds tempting . . ."
Barcelona by Khalid Youssef
Khaled Youssef is a Syrian physician and photographer who loves bubbles. He lives in Nice and travels the world, capturing various landscapes through their prism. Several of these works are included in this exhibition, including a photograph of one of my favorite cities, Barcelona. Youssef has established several not-for-profit organizations for Syrian art and was instrumental in pulling together the artists featured in this exhibition.
Omar Shammah, a professional graphic designer from Damascus, now lives in Germany. From the outbreak of war in Syria until 2016, he spent his life watching his home and neighborhood destroyed. He draws, and superimposes photographs over his pieces. Left Behind may be capturing the memories of places now gone for the refugee couple depicted here, or it may be a drawing of those who remain because they are not able to leave.
Omar Shammah's Left Behind
The program brochure (which is excellent) describes some of the difficulties in staging this exhibition. Tans says "Although many of these original works were executed digitally, there were several that were not, and those that weren't had terrific difficulty being shipped from their region of origin." Packages were unable to be delivered to the United States. All of the works, then, had to be sent in digital form from which high-quality prints were made.
The Syrian Experience As Art will be showing at ArtisTree until June 24. The Gallery is located at 2095 Pomfret Rd, South Pomfret VT. For more information about the resettlement of refugees in Vermont, click here for Rutland Welcomes' website.
Interested in checking out the Upper Valley Arts Alliance's new webpage? Click here.
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Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge