Re Imagined Peace
Re Imagined Peace, Helen Zughaib

Mark Jenkins writes about Palestinian art at The Washington Post, reviewing Helen Zughaib’s show “Fractured Spring” on exhibition at The Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds. The gallery is one of three divisions of the Jerusalem Fund, created in 1977 to raise money for philanthropic projects in the Palestinian territories. However, the gallery, which was founded in 2000, focuses on Middle Eastern art rather than solely Palestine art, as Dagmar Painter, who initiated and runs the space, explaines:

“I thought it would be interesting to, quasi-independently, run a gallery that would concentrate on contemporary art from the Middle East, the Islamic world, Arab Americans — I defined it very, very broadly,” she recalls, “with an emphasis on Palestinian art, but not solely.”

One of the gallery’s early exhibitions, which was focused on Palestine, “Palestinians . . . Meanwhile,” featured 180 large-scale photographs of daily life. “Kids in Boy Scout and Girl Scout uniforms, and weddings and bakeries. An example which expands this Palestinian focus mentioned in the article is last year’s show — “The Map is Not the Territory” — which connected artwork by Palestinian, Irish and Native American artists, where Painter “invited a Palestinian oud player, an Irish fiddler and a Native American singer and drummer to perform together.”

Here is a panel on The Map is Not the Territory, featuring artists Mona El-Bayoumi, Phoebe Farris and Helen Zughaib.

There is now a call for papers for a “scholarly catalogue” on the 2013 exhibition, deadline October 25.

Essays are requested from Irish, Palestinian  and Native American points of view that consider these relationships in the context of topics such as land, diaspora, conflict, resistance, walls, identity, culture, and persistence. By Native American, we mean indigenous peoples of North and South America. By Irish and Palestinian, we include the diaspora.

See here for more.

As well as discussing The Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds, The Washington Post article reviews Zughaib’s show, which is described as political but gentle, depicting “poverty, cultural fragmentation and spiritual imprisonment” with a colorful style “which melds traditional Arab motifs and Western pop art.”

The artist says the project began with a trip to the Middle East shortly before the Arab Spring in 2011.

It was her first visit since leaving Lebanon 35 years ago. “I went to Beirut, and I had a big show there. And I was in Syria to see where my father was born, in the old city in Damascus. And then Jordan. And then several months later, the Tunisian fruit seller set himself on fire. So many of the places that we had seen started deteriorating just a few months after we had been there. So after the initial hope of the Arab Spring, my work kind of changed.”

Spring Flight 5
Spring Flight, Helen Zughaibi

Sidenote, apparently, one of Zughaib’s paintings, Midnight Prayers, was presented to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malik during his visit to the White House by President Barack Obama.

Painter explains that the gallery is intended to provide an exhibition space for underrepresented art, including from the Arab world:

“A lot of the artists are doing really interesting work, which is not necessarily about being an Arab,” she says. “Although, like any artist, their life experience informs what they do. And they are expressing themselves using really contemporary modes. But they don’t have a lot of ability to be shown.”

At the same time, as the The Map is Not the Territory indicates, the gallery “brings in non-Arab artists or tries to create dialogue between Palestinians and others.” For this season, the gallery “will enlist 40 artists — Arab and not — to make small pieces based on a poem Painter selected from the work of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.”

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