Meeting Mohamad Hafez at CCSU

How lucky am I to have to the opportunity to, not only meet the artists that we showcase at the CCSU Art Galleries, but also the artists who we (the art department) invite to present lectures for the students.

This week, as was the case, we had the honor to present Mohamad Hafez to speak about his most current body of work.

Mohamad Hafez Bio

When I first saw Hafez’ artwork at City Wide Open Studios in New Haven back in October and I was immediately intrigued.  It was as if gravity pulled me in closer to each piece.  The subject that his works portrayed revealed themselves to me immediately as I discovered a Middle Eastern citadel, shattered and ravaged by what one could easily identify as the trademark of war.

If anyone knows me they will know that I don’t shy away from politics.  In fact, I actually attempt to keep up with current events around the world.  And it’s not unheard of, amidst my friends and family, to have argumentative discussions about the state of world.

However, what I love more than politics is art with a powerful message.

A Refugee Nation - Shown at CWOS, New Haven, 2015.When I turned into the small room where the artist had his work displayed, I knew I had found a special treat.  This work by Hafez was skillfully crafted and installed in the perfect setting that is the Goffe Street Armory in New Haven.  A run down industrial space, the Armory space gave his pieces a sense of belonging, a kinship the works shared with the deteriorated walls, peeling paint, and rusty window frames and exposed structures.

The art history professor in our department contacted me to find a time frame for hosting an artist lecture in our gallery.  When I learned who the artist was that would be presenting a lecture, I was utterly enthused.  Admittedly, she was also a big fan of Hafez’ work like myself, and unfortunately she had missed seeing him speak at Real Artways in Hartford, so what better way to mediate that problem than by hosting his lecture for her students and the university body.

Both sides of the conflict. Shown at CWOS, New Haven, 2015.

detailShotIrrevocably, I loved everything about his lecture and message.  My favorite part of the presentation was his end goal.  He wasn’t just trying to make a statement with his artwork.  The work was born out of his necessity to feel closer to home, to his roots, and to his people rather than trying to spread his own idealistic beliefs.  He focuses his efforts on shedding these perceptions we have which corporate media has manufactured so wrongly in our minds.

He didn’t need to convince me, I was already on his side before I even saw his works of art.  I may not have first hand experience in the kind of suffering that war brings to cities, countries, multitudes of people but my empathetic heart stretches into a universe inside of me, feeling very helpless and wishing I could do more.  He did more by simply sharing his family life in Damascus with us.

He showed us the snapshots he took of every day life when he was finally able to go back to his country.  Homesick and nostalgic about the little details of his home country that most might miss if you’re not really looking, he shed light to his culture’s best aspects.  A culture where humility is of utmost importance is truly noticeable in the neighborhoods as you walk by front doors of houses completely clear of embellishment, they all look the same regardless of how much or little you may have.  He also shared how communities come together when there are neighbors in need.  He showed us pictures of a normal Friday night dinner with immediate family, gatherings of 15-20 people around the table having a grand meal and actively being a family.  It reminded me of some family gatherings I have been to myself, where family extends not only to brothers, sisters, and parents but also cousins, second cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends whom we consider family.

It was easy to relate to his stories, and though our cultures may be different, they are also so similar.

This was my take on the artwork and the artist’s presentation.  I am sure I could go on for another 600 words to critique the quality of the artwork but after all I have already said, I don’t think it’s as important as you (the reader/viewer) to draw your own conclusion and opinion.

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Rewind…

It’s always a busy time in September when school is once again starting and here I am trying to push my artwork as much as I conceivably can.

So let’s rewind just a bit to the late spring/early summer time when I went kind of crazy on ceramics work in my studio, tried to do as many shows as I had inventory, and tried to submit my work into juried competitions all over.

I managed to get rejected a few times as well as successfully set up and take down shows, sell some pieces, get some great feedback, and even make it into some of those juried exhibitions.  The rejections did leave a mark.  Instead they motivate me to be bigger and do better for the same competition next year.

This past Saturday was the opening of the “Untitled: AbEx 2015” in Hartford, Connecticut. I was honored to be included in this abstract exhibition artist list with one of my ceramic pieces and one of my old cyanotype photographs, both of which you can see here.

It was a great celebration of artistic talent in our local area.  And talent we have.  There were some very strong abstract paintings and mixed media on their walls.  My artist friend Monica Hewryk was also part of the exhibition with two of her ceramic pieces.  You can see our excitement in the images below.

Paola @ Hartford Artspace
Me next to “Missing Pieces” sculpture.
Monica @ Hartford Artspace
Artist Monica Hewryk next to her pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that same night before we walked our way to dinner we stopped by EBK Gallery, their small work gallery situated on Pearl Street in Hartford.  It was my first time visiting, and to my surprise, we found this great one piece show.  You might ask one piece show?  Yes!  It was the opening for a mural piece by Tim Wengerstman.  And yes, it was the only piece of artwork there, however, it was a big mural covering the main wall of the tiny gallery.

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Tim Wengertsman (image from EBK gallery website)

The mural was strong, assertive in its message, and it spoke of the generational awareness of our times.  It was a busy gallery with mounds of people outside of the gallery trying to get their questions answered.  My friend overheard the artist reveal that many of his artist friends were getting ready to relocate or move on with their lives in one aspect or another, a rite of passage kind of thing.  This impactful series of events brought on this painting, adequately titled “The Last Supper in Hartford,” is so politically charged it’s one of the main reasons I loved it so much.

Besides being stylistically strong (he works in woodcuts), one must study this mural with some time at hand.  It has much to decipher besides the obvious political punches he inserts with symbolism and some words.  I highly recommend anyone in the Hartford area to go see it.

It will be showing until September 28th, 2015.  Go See it!!

Tell me what you see.  Tell me what you feel when you look at this mural.  Aren’t all your senses on edge??

Call for Artists from CAFA

Phew, it’s hard to believe the whole first month of the year is already behind us.  And yet I find myself thinking about June.  Can anyone out there believe I am already thinking about June?!?  As the blizzard cold creeps into the house, I cannot help but wish for the June sun and heat.

So what’s so special about June?

CAFA’s Annual Exhibition opens June 19th at the Mystic Arts Center (MAC) in Mystic, Connecticut.  So what does that mean for artists out there?  Get your art ready, we are already receiving art work submissions online.  Visit: www.ctacademy.org for all the details.

The online entry deadline is April 10, so while you have a little bit of time, those months seem to fly by when you are having fun.  The carry-in entry date is June 14 & 15.

Expect CAFA’s 104th Annual Exhibition to be bigger and better.  Why, you ask?  For starters, we have two great jurors, Jaclyn Conley and Mark Patnode.  Click on their names, check out their websites, you will not be disappointed.  Another reason for bigger and better, we have increased some existing awards and we have added some awards, including President’s Award for $250.

If you are not an artist but are interested in visiting the gallery for an amazingly interesting and diverse collection of art, don’t miss our Awards Reception on July 2, 2015.  Details will be posted here and on our website: www.ctacademy.org, and in the Mystic Arts Center website: www.mysticarts.org.

Good luck to all who enter the competition!

Photography Artist: DeAnn Desilets

So here I am, in snowy Connecticut, stuck at home.  Though, truthfully, I am grateful for having a snow day and some time to write.

Today I picked DeAnn Desilets to focus on.  She made it into CAFA’s very selective online photography exhibition with both of her entries.  Her story telling is just what I needed in this cold, windy, and wintry day.  Below are her entries.

These two photographs came from Desilets’ body of work titled “Landscapes Through the Looking Glass.

Waiting for Alice - DeAnn Desilets
Waiting for Alice – DeAnn Desilets
Magic Mirror - DeAnn Desilets
Magic Mirror – DeAnn Desilets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t you think these photographs have an eerie sort of dreamlike quality to them?  If you felt as I did, like I dropped into the set of a magical fairytale, it’s because the artist was trying to do just that.

Photographer Desilets has, as the opening of her artist statement, a quote by Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax:

     “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.”

Through her imagery, Desilets tries to twist your ordinary, familiar perspective to evoke an inquisitive feeling of possibility and exploration meanwhile creating a sense of mystery.  If you visit her site and see the entire series, you can all see the settings she created.  The context in which she places the viewer changes wildly from photo to photo, leaving the viewer puzzled and widely open to interpretation through own experience.

One aspect of her work that really makes me appreciate it more so is her awareness about our responsibility for sustainability, and subtle hints of it found within her work.

What kind of emotions does her work evoke from you?  I’d love to know! Please comment if you thought her work was interesting and/or insightful.

January Cold Keeps Us Motivated

Good morning readers! It’s bright and early on this Thursday morning, still bitterly cold outside as the sun slowly comes to cover us all with its sheer warmth.  As the second full week of January comes to a close, I find myself going and going like the energizer bunny.  My theory?  I’m just trying to keep warm.

Things are moving along with CAFA, and at CCSU we are on the brink of another exhibition opening a week from today.  But I don’t want to write about that (yet…I will just not now).

Today I wanted to write about fine art photography artist Cynthia Matty-Huber.  She was awarded the 1st place in our Online Photo Exhibition for her image “John Hoiland in his Livingroom” which you can see in my recent post New Year = New Possibilities.

Matty-Huber, a Montana-based photographer, has a grasp on the harsh reality that is the rancher’s life and the everyday hard chores that make up their  livelihood.  Somehow she has been able to capture the strong hardship, the years of hard labor in a quick, in a snap of the camera.

The following was Matty-Huber’s second entry into CAFAs competition, which is another beautiful depiction of the american rancher in the rugged north-western landscape.

Cynthia Matty-Huber, "John Hoiland an 87 year old lone rancher of McLeod Montana"
Cynthia Matty-Huber, “John Hoiland an 87 year old lone rancher of McLeod Montana”

Every distinguished wrinkle line on his face that contrasts against the lighting really seems to bring the viewer’s focus to his deep complex expression.

Photographer Matty-Huber has a great body of work, please check out her full portfolio here, you won’t be disappointed.

Comments are always welcome…

New Year = New Possibilities

Hello readers, happy new year 2015!!  I hope wonderful things come your way in the coming year!

Let me tell you about our Online Photo Exhibition if you haven’t read about it yet.  It is the very first of its kind for Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts who is finally making an online presence.  Well, I’m happy to announce that our online exhibition was successful.  It’s juried and up for viewing here!!

In case you didn’t click on the link just yet….Spoiler Alert! Here’s the first place winner.

matty.j1
John Hoiland in his Livingroom by Cynthia Matty-Huber (Livingston, MT)

It means so much to us at CAFA that we were able to reach so many fine art photographers to participate in this competition.  We had photographers from Australia, Norway, and nearly 25 states from the USA were represented.  This is the kind of results I want to see for our competitions.

Our juror Michael Yurgeles was magnificent at electing a diverse group of highly skilled compositions.  I encourage everyone to take 5 to 10 minutes to integrate yourself with the photographs we are presenting in our exhibition.  You won’t be disappointed.

In the coming weeks, I will write a piece about some of the artists in the exhibition.  I want to give you a more in-depth look into their passionate work.  Until then, I hope your eyes feasts on the beauty of each image we present.

The Closing of Another Year

As we come to the end of another semester at CCSU, it brings with it the excitement of the holidays.  But, as the story always goes, we are also thinking ahead to the new year, new semester, new responsibilities, and goals to achieve.

A busy time for CAFA too.  We are in the midst of jurying the entries to our 1st online show.  It’s a big step for our organization who, with a little help, is stepping into the 21st century.  Art, I believe, should be readily available to all, rich and poor, regardless of religion, color, orientation, etc.  The world wide web helps us, artists and art organizations, bring fine art closer to all of you.

It’s a busy time for all, but I wanted to post some photos because it’s one of the easiest forms of art to share online.  And, before I forget, take a look at this article which explains how art is great for our physical health.

Until next time!