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.
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.
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.
Irrevocably, 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.