NAAP-DC & Jerusalem Fund Gallery Co-Host Arab-American Art Exhibition in Washington, DC

NAAP-DC attendees

Artist: Manal Deeb

Work by Zohra Ben Hamida

Piece by Mona El-Bayoumi

Piece by Ammar Qusaibaty

By: Mehrunisa Qayyum Contributions by Samer Korkor and Fatima Ahmed

On Tuesday, October 11, 2011, The Network of Arab American Professionals, Washington, DC Chapter co-hosted nine local Arab American artists exhibit with The Jerusalem Fund Gallery. Dagmar Painter, the Jerusalem Fund Gallery’s art curator, coordinated over 50 art pieces from the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area at the Floridian, 919 Florida Avenue, NW. Over 130 attendees experienced 4 rooms of art.

Meanwhile, NAAP-DC continued its tradition of collaborating with local Middle Eastern businesses: Shawarma Spot, located in Adams Morgan on Eighteenth Street, donated the catering. The event would not have been possible without realtor, Diana Korkor, who arranged for the venue.

Background
Since the Network of Arab American Professionals in DC (NAAP-DC), is the fastest-growing Middle Eastern organization in DC, we remain a volunteer based, energy-driven networking hub that has become recognized as a community builder for professional, cultural, and public service events.

NAAP-DC is run by a diverse group of individuals of Middle Eastern decent, from Algeria to Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iran, Pakistan, etc. We are each from different religious backgrounds from the region and we gather in a horizontal structure where we work together putting aside any drama that might exist in or emanate from our countries of origin. And we are not non-religious, but rather encompassing of all our religions. The same goes with politics, diverging views mix with mutual respect and understanding of narrative. This is what we are building and we will celebrate with art and support professionals of all kinds, artists, lawyers, engineers, economists, health care professionals, comedians, etc.

Arab American Artist Listing:
~Zohra Ben Hamida is influenced by her Tunisian, American, and Saudi Arabian experiences. Earlier she showcased her textured paintings at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery in early 2011.

~Adam Chamy, who in inspired by discarded items like license plates and other unusual materials to explore the politics of identity. Chamy received his BA from George Washington University.

~Manal Deeb was born in Ramallah and studied both art and psychology. She incorporates organic material, like tree bark, to represent the layered life. Deeb’s goal is “to bring Palestinian heritage to speak across time and place to convey memory’s persistence.”

~Mona El-Bayoumi hails from Alexandria, Egypt and is largely influence by social justice causes in Iran, Central America, South Africa, and Eritrea–not just the Arab world.
Dina Karkar showcased oil paintings of vibrant colors to highlight the numerous exotic locales she has visited.

~Leila Khoury was born and raised in Cleveland and is of Syrian descent. Leila is studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

~Ammar Qusaibaty is both an artist and mathmetician and combines left and right-brained talents to produce double sided paintings on “mylar” sheets and fluorescent acrylic paints. His pieces include Arabesque and Night Dance.

~Vian Shmounki Borchert has presented expressionist art at The National Gallery of Art in Amman, Jordan; The Contemporary Museum of Art in Georgetown; The Jerusalem Fund; The International Trade Center, The Black Rock Center of The Arts, Gaithersburg City Hall Art Gallery, among others.

~Helen Zughaib, who has lived in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine and focuses on “the strength and beauty of women” in her Changing Perceptions series. Her studio is in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.

Highlights
NAAP-DC Board Member, Fatima Ahmed, interviewed each artist and graciously photographed attendees with their favorite artists. Notable guests included: Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) National President, David Warren, and wife Amal Warren; Mr. & Mrs. Sam A. Kubba, of Kubba Design; and Mr. Saed Rahwanji from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

NAAP-DC Chair, Samer Korkor, the visionary of the event explained that,”It is simply the first time in anyone’s memory that a group of 8-10 significant Arab American artists in the DC area with talent…at one of the trendiest parts of DC (U Street) and in the penthouse of the most artistic new condo building, The Floridian.”

Mona El-Bayoumi shared how her art will always present an opportunity of political expression for her since “identity with symbols” plays a role as an Arab-American artist. She added that art in both the Arab world and in the US are both full of contemporary pieces, but perhaps the second and third generation of Arab-Americans might gear more towards the symbols, as seen in some of her pieces that are very reminiscent of her native Egypt. Her next showing will appear at The Jerusalem Fund Gallery in May 2012.

Ammar Qusaibaty broke the stereotype of successful artists only representing the humanities. Ammar is a practicing mathematician with a doctorate from Sorbonne. He explains how his pieces focus on the fluidity of linking the “right-brain” with the “left-brain” and pushes the viewer into a “cognitive trick that’s always trying to find order–especially as the transparent canvas changes with a new background. “Newer media presented by Ammar is not typical and presents a great contemporary addition to both Arab culture and art in of itself,” remarks Amany, who was visiting from Palestine.

Manal Deeb’s pieces include many favorites. However, my favorite was the piece representing three generations of grief as a child, a mother, and elderly woman’s faces are hidden within the tree bark and layers of paint. When asked about why incorporating tree bark and pieces, Deeb shares,”my favorite memory was playing under the fig trees in Palestine…art is a therapy for me” so the vivid imagery lives on in her haunting pieces.

As such, Helen Zughaib remarks how her work focuses on a cultural dialogue. Recently, the University of Maryland invited Zughaib to show her artwork, like the piece on Saudi women. Ironically, the same piece she selected to represent the struggle of Saudi women to drive, came to life again. With her art studio outside of the Saudi Arabian US embassy in Foggy Bottom, she retells how she felt like holding one of her pieces outside the window as women protested the Saudi driving ban.

Sarah Weatherbee, ADC-DC, commented that the event,”provides an excellent showcase of art–it’s important to preserve both the classical and contemporary Arab culture in this way.”

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