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.

WPC: Minimalist

What a great prompt for photography.  In a world where we are flashed as many as 5000 ads each day, it’s important to really consider the minimalist approach sometimes.  Even if just to take a break.

Here are my photographs in which I felt the minimalist in me was trying to emerge out of me.

Check out the others’ response to the challenge here.  And if you want, you can leave a comment!

City Gallery Gals

Today, as 100+ million people are watching the Superbowl, I sit here writing about my exciting day and visit to City Gallery in New Haven, CT.

Since I started this blog, I have used certain websites to find art events to attend so that I have content to write about.  Well, I’ve found some good ones that I can use, not only for blog content, but also as an artist.  There are some many more entry call sites that I never knew about.  Also, these websites would be a great place to advertise the shows that happen at CCSU.

Anyway, for today I had set on my calendar an opening exhibition reception that looked promising.  My high school friend Erik came along with my husband and I.  None of us had lunch when we met up so we decided to grab some food on the way there.  We drove to New Haven and parked close to City Gallery on State Street, New Haven, and from there we found a nice little New York-chic restaurant called Oak Heaven Table & Bar.  Our outing was starting on a fantastic note.  With a modern twist for a style, they had a great selection of beer (all bottles at least for now), and a nice wine list.  However, my friend Erik was most interested in the bourbon they had in these miniature cask right on their bar.  I was more interested in the food because I was famished.  They only had a brunch menu but everything on it looked delectable.  I ordered the beet salad and a side of sausage hash.  You could tell, just looking at the ingredients, they are using seasonal vegetables and farmer’s market derived ingredients, as our bartender confirmed.  It’s a place I could go back to every day…guided by my stomach.

Enough about the delicious food — but really, go there if you’re in the New Haven area.

City Gallery was only a couple blocks away, but it felt good walking off the food we had just had.  We walked in the gallery immediately realizing that it’s a small space, and there’s a lot of people.  Only a great sign of good art bringing people together, I thought.  The gallery was painted all white and it felt minimal leading the way to the art.  In the front of the gallery, two gentlemen playing some nice tunes in a jazzy style guitar.  Lately, about 85% of the music I listen to is jazz, so I found myself immersed in the groovy ambiance.

The artists being exhibited were Sheila Kaczmarek and Jane Harris.

Sheila was presenting a collection consisting of ceramic sculptures and some paintings that reflected the clay body of work.  Her sculptures reminded me of an organic material, and it was as if you were walking through a forest of these white growths.  When I saw them within five feet from me I recognized the glaze on the surface of some of her sculptures, she was using mamo white.  The texture of the glaze along with the forms were reminiscent of corals.

2014-02-02 15.10.33
Sheila Kaczmarek

The artist, as it said in her statement provided, was inspired by the grafted, old growth vines that she saw in Northern California.  Her fascination with these forms found their glory in assembling them together.  These sculptures were laid out in the center the widest part of the gallery; they stood on some very simple wide rectangular display pedestals which formed a square doughnut shaped runway for the sculptures.

In all honesty, I enjoyed more looking at her paintings which were interpretations of the same inspiration.  Her two-dimensional work seemed better composed, and more alive such as the one pictured below which feels like a rhythmic dance.  Perhaps it was the dance of the sea, as it was titled after the ekman spirals, which are the sea currents.  The emphasis on color and the contrasting layers of texture caught my attention as I studied this piece.

Sheila Kaczmarek
Sheila Kaczmarek

Sheila and I were introduced, but didn’t get a chance to speak much more than hello because, as half owner the exhibition, she was very busy attending to all her guests.

There was someone nice enough to point me to the other artist Jane Harris.  She was an older lady with a young spirit sitting on the sidelines greeting people as they came by.  I took a seat on the empty chair next to her and introduced myself.  We didn’t chat very long either because she, too, was busy.  She told me that she is originally from Brooklyn, but now lives in Madison, CT.  My next question was about the body of work present in the gallery.  She said it was her most recent work which she works on each Wednesday at the art center in town, on which she relies for the wheel press.

Her mixed media collage/paintings were sophisticated in color and composition.  She maintains a strong balanced design with vertical and horizontal lines, and she adds interest with some old photographs of Brooklyn.  My favorite elements, which she used repeatedly in her work, were a variety of silks and handmade papers which gave the overall scheme a bit of obscurity like the veil on a blushing bride.

Jane Harris
Jane Harris
Jane Harris
Jane Harris

Another detail I liked about Jane Harris’ prints was how she purposely had certain double pressed prints just slightly off register.  This is the artist’s way of tipping her hat to the history of the printing press, which she uses to make her work.  I found all her work quite enthralling, studying layer upon layer of unique material, new and recycled, which she used to assemble her collage.  You can tell her pieces have gone through a long process of change and progress before finding its final placement.

Jane Harris has an Art History degree from Brown University.  She has also studied in the Art Students League of New York, and she has presented solo and collaborated work in CT for the past 15 or so years.  Jane and Sheila have also exhibited together previously.

Jane Harris
Jane Harris
Jane Harris
Jane Harris

All in all, I had an incredible ‘Superbowl Sunday.’  I wouldn’t have done it any other way.  I did, however, take a break to see the half-time show and thought that Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers did a pretty good job entertaining the crowds.  I hope you enjoyed the football game, and I hope that you catch this post and these artists as interesting as I did.