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.


In Memory of…

Life is short but it sure is sweet.

About a week ago the physical world lost a good soul.  Mark Strathy; artist, art professor at Central Connecticut State University, mentor to many artists and students, great boss to work with; peacefully passed away in his sleep.  My deepest sympathies go out to his girlfriend, and all of his family.

Strathy came into my life when I started to work at CCSU.  He was one (of two) of the gallery directors.  Working for him was always free of stress as much as it was always a lesson for me to simply be around him and his lectures to his students.  Those students who took his classes semester after semester talk about him as a great resource with awesome artistic skills which inspired them and his colleagues around him.

As we shared memories of Strathy, Monica Hewryk (a colleague and former student of the artist at CCSU) and I smiled at the thought of a warm chuckle from above because he used to say “You don’t get famous until you die.”

His artwork was always mesmerizing.  His large-scale oil paintings or watercolors have dreamlike scenarios in which he embedded his allegories that made you think deeply, laugh, or sometimes took you out of your comfort zone.

Let’s celebrate his life and his creative genius simply by admiring his work, through it he lives on.  After 20 years of living and having your studio in Brooklyn (Driggs Ave.), people will surely miss you.  However, you left a deep mark here in Connecticut too, and especially at Central (CCSU).

Rest in peace…


Exhibiting Natural Forms

We have entered the last week of our current exhibition and I recommend for all of you (within reasonable distance of central Connecticut) to come and visit “Natural Forms” before it closes on April 9th.  That’s this Thursday, so hurry up!

As I get back into the rhythm of writing, I can’t help but feel a bit guilty for not having written in two months.  So I am hoping that this post reaches the masses so they can discover the beautiful artwork we presently have installed in our CCSU Art Galleries.

It was a chaotic few weeks prior to the opening of Natural Forms on March 23, 2015.  Logistics for transporting artwork to our gallery took a bit of communication, team work and lots of energy.

The four exhibiting artists were Josh Axelrod, photographer from Vertmont; Amelia de Neergaard, installation artist living and working in Connecticut; Raphaela McCormack, a fiber artist originally from West Ireland living in Rochester, NY; and finally Bryan Nash Gill, a Connecticut artist who worked making relief prints and sculptures.

Raphaela McCormack - Of The Sea
Raphaela McCormack – Of The Sea

All the artists’ work relates so well to each other in this exhibition, it is as if they spoke the same language or carried the same spirit.  And it’s how we relate to all of it that makes for an important insight.  Come and sit on our bench and enjoy the serene movement of de Neergaard’s “River of Trees,” it will clear your mind.  Need a breath of fresh air?  Axelrod’s landscape photos can provide you with that as well.  Or you can get lost in any of Gill’s etchings which seem to have endless layers to them.  As for McCormack’s forms, you can almost picture her vessels drifting on the water toward the horizon.

Amelia de Neergaard by her "Gyre Locust" pods
Amelia de Neergaard by her “Gyre Locust” pods
Josh Axelrod next to his photographs "Taking the Turn" & "Arc"
Josh Axelrod next to his photographs “Taking the Turn” & “Arc”

McCormack’s abaca pulp (made from banana leaves) forms were the original inspirations for Cassandra Broadus-Garcia, the curator (my boss), to put these four artists’ work together and create a very raw escape from the concrete and technological.

Hoping that you will appreciate browsing through the pictures from the exhibition, I leave you, also, with a short video of Bryan Nash Gill from Martha Stewart’s American Made series.

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!

Richard Welling Visuals

Back in September I posted a visual recap for our last show, the art faculty exhibition, and it was a successful post.  I imagine the reason being that, just as myself, my visitors are mostly visual.

This time, again, I won’t ramble on about what cool artwork we have in the gallery, I will just show you the work of Connecticut artist Richard Welling.  Enjoy!

“You can see Rome”

Before the Art Faculty Exhibition comes to an end at CCSU Art Galleries, there is one more piece of art that I must show that I did not include in the visual recap post.

The reason I waited to post images of this particular piece was because, first, I needed to take good pictures of it and it was sort of tricky to do so.  Secondly, this one needed to have just a little background information.

The artist is Adam Niklewicz, who is an adjunct professor of illustration and painting at CCSU.  His piece being exhibited in our CCSU Art Galleries is titled ‘Rome’.  Here are some images of his piece.

As Adam spoke of his work, he explained an old polish saying for when somebody is cutting a slice of bread too thin. “You can see Rome through the holes of this [piece of] bread”.

That was all the explanation needed, but without it many people took the piece of bread for granted and passed it by even though there was a sign indicating the viewer to look through the bread.  However, once given a little more information, viewers left in wonder because the piece of art was more than just a piece of bread.  It was a well thought out concept on Niklewicz’s part, and left some people in awe as many of the comments from students’ mouths were “Aw, cool!”

This is the kind of work that Niklewicz likes present in galleries, though he is highly skilled in drawing, and illustration.  Check out this mural art he created in Hartford, CT.

Not only is it beautiful but it is über creative in the way it’s presented (it comes alive when [rain]water hits it) but it fits well within the Hartford historical context, while simultaneously adding dynamic public art to decorate our capital city.  Click here if you’d like to learn more about the Charter Oak Tree project.

If you are in the Connecticut area and would like to come see it, you can until October 9th, check out the CCSU Art Galleries website for directions and hours the gallery is open.  I know it isn’t the same as seeing it in person, but what do you think of this piece of contemporary artwork?  Would love to read your feedback!

Faculty Exhibition: Visual Recap