May Hariri Aboutaam,The date palm that gave shade to Mary cries
This scheme is a feminine depiction of a military action against the land and the people of the Middle East. It is flattened and fashioned to un-flatten the impact of re-mapping, and re-organizing my homeland. Change is needed but it has to come from within. Multiple symbols are scattered on the surface of this print to portray how the diverse cultures of the Middle East have been looted, destroyed and stripped bare, used in the position of an object for study and exhibition, and situated in a remote backwardness, all in the name of democratization. The split, the wall is used to bring awareness of politics of inclusions and exclusions and the human nature and its appetite to create borders and blurring boundaries.

Samia Allaw, Untitled
Those are inspirations from my deep cultural roots. I don’t know from where I came. I am seeking for the truth. I am seeking to move beyond the visual element of artistry inspiration, I view my world of travels and lessons of humanity symbolize meanings of peace. The need for expectant thundered by comparison abounds within each figure. I preserve the simplicity of the human race. Believing that people are united beyond their national boundaries. I am striving to incorporate intrinsic virtue of human trails over the perils of war and destruction plaguing the international community.

Sama Alshaibi, Say Nothing
Sama uses the first person narrative to perform individual and communal memories that help inform her audience of our collective identity, one that restores our humanity and resists the injustice of our past and present. Her work honors the lives of the “characters” she performs, such as mother and grandmother, whose strength and wits contributed to the survival of the family and defies stereotypes of the oppressed and weak Arab woman. Like many immigrants, her life will always reflect the crossings back and forth between motherland and new land as she attempts to remain close and connected to her culture, family, and friends. But for first world nations, her passport reads like the story of a shifty wanderer, a hyphenated profile that doesn’t fit in tidy spectrums of security risks. Like many, she simply doesn’t fit into polarized binaries that shape the perceptions of border agents.

Stephanie Bacon
, Found Verse
It is the most common of commonplaces to say that we are overwhelmed with information; that we are constantly barraged with language and pictures and ideas far exceeding that which we might hope to absorb. I am interested in how our thinking and perception are affected by the feeling that there is too much information around us to process, and the notion that we need constantly to filter the great quantities of material that perception admits. How is the texture of consciousness affected by the things we are filtering out—the messages un-received? It seems that we are perpetually surrounded by multiple simultaneous streams of language which we do not read, and which we lack fluency in, because in some less than fully conscious way we decide that certain messages are not meant for us. We consent to disregard, dismiss or forget, because we believe the coherence of our own thinking is at stake.

The profoundest failures of language are evidenced in the perpetual violence (on the greatest and smallest of scales) that characterizes human history and civilization. We believe that language helps us to understand one another, but language is also complicit in creating the alienation that fosters violence and disregard. In considering the rhetorical situation of the (so-called) Middle East in western consciousness, I hope to draw the viewer’s attention to instances of complicit and failing language, and perhaps call their authority into question.

Heather Bryant, The Caged Bird Sings
The Caged Bird Sings
depicts two parakeets wearing burqas that resemble bird cages. This is my response to Afghani women who have to wear burqas, I feel it is similar to caging a parakeet. The title alludes to the expression ‘Does a caged bird sing?’ The birds are flying kites, which were forbidden by the Taliban. In my work I make metaphorical use of animals to demonstrate moral principles. I am concerned with how the creatures of the world, real or illusory, behave. The behavior that I am studying focuses on shared experiences in society. The experiences of loss, rejection, deceit, embarrassment, and defeat are painful feelings that we all have encountered. I strive to create an awareness of shared and collective experiences, broadening perspectives and encouraging understanding. By using allegory I am able to encourage the viewer to ponder the significance of the animal relationships in comparison to the relationships that humans develop in society that are collective.

Dina Charara, Winds of Torment
Winds of Torment
blurred the vision of nations in the Middle East; dreams are shattered upon various skies. Lost identities are seeking a beam of light to implant hope within the pleading souls. The background of the print presents colors which are common among all flags that were picked on the soil of that region, during the colonization era and beyond. The dismantled horse in the foreground resembles the loss of identity, which people of that region are facing these days. Functioning under the control of different political conflicts stripped the nation from the essence of belongingness. The fragmented horse that is scattered on the print reflects disunity yet the culture is one. Roaming aimlessly in the sky where the sun ca not yet shine, voices in despair are rising to attach the pieces and unify the soul and body.

Youmna Chlala
, Untitled

divergence convergence apparel
Mathew J. Egan, Divergence, Convergence, and Apparel
It often seems fabrics and wearable garments identify a society and culture, while serving as a covering to the body that supports the material. Clothing can apparently further define or suggest an individual’s class, race, religion, status, and at times can even determine the participation of an activity, ritual, event, ceremony, or practice. Apparel may demonstrate unique qualities of an area or culture in a similar manner we rely on the cues from architecture, cuisine, geography, and visual art. Apparel contributes to the material culture. It seems these visual cues can be used to identify a culture or society, and/ or stereotype a person. It is the later that I find intriguing, but not necessarily one that I condone. I am interested in how we arrive at conclusions, and/or if the conclusions have any basis that is meaningful, to us as a person, or to us as a society. I am mindful of the distinctions of an abaya, hijab, or type of dishdasha, for example, both in terms of fashion, purpose, pride, and national identity. I am curious of the parallel and distinctions that are present in a society that wears suits, tuxedoes, jeans, and t-shirts. Do such garments play a similar role in function, fashion, and identity to the society that wears them and does this reflect, change, or alter our values, systems of beliefs, family structure, and/or roles in society? There are often garments and apparel that can beautify, identify, and depict one’s origin. Such visual cues identify our differences as well as a person’s identity. Social status within a singular society and/or indications of distinctions that relate to a different culture than our own can be identified by how one presents themselves, by the fabric they wear, the fashion they support, and the appearance they put forth. However, we must also realize that no matter how distinct or different our clothes and what they may reveal or project, we can directly relate to and therefore celebrate the structure beneath the garment.

Stacy Elko
, All They Wanted
Living in Morocco there was a way of being that was not noticed in my mind and body until I left, where I began to understand difference and change. The tidal force of the place was a wave that engulfed and changed me in ways I never thought possible. After spending many years in Morocco, I returned to this country with the perception that I was the same person who had left. Despite the fact that I had returned to the US, I continued to make art as if I had never left Morocco. In reaction I began to artistically investigate a pervasive feeling that had been growing since I had come back to the US. Beginning to search out places that resonated with the feeling: Rail yards to the south and west of town, abandoned places slowly being reclaimed by nature, my work began to transform. A crow image insinuated itself into my work, a crow that I had stumbled upon, dead on the grass. I continued to work with the crow imagery concentrating on the claws and a heart image and later manifesting it in terms of other things related to me in special ways: fragile teacups, peppers, and acorns. I defined this as displacement /fragmentation and my time as a journey.There is an ancient sacredness to the journey. The individual turns his back on that which is known and walks forward. The beginning of the journey is often unannounced, unrealized until future reflection. And upon this journey, there are points of stopping— places of significance. The purpose to the journey manifested in these places but changes over time. When I came back I was a foreigner here in the land of my birth. The tidal wave again engulfed me, but the residue of these journeys is what the pervasive element is now. There is a constant restlessness and longing to wander, forever searching for a home that no longer exists. Is it the curse of the Diaspora? Or is it just the refusal to acknowledge the passage of time and the frailty of the human condition.

Meeting many expatriates that had lived in Morocco longer than I had, I have come to realize that it is possible to live in a place an entire life and not be affected by it at all. They only contacted the culture when they wanted something, taking, not interacting. Since I have a more intimate perspective of Islam and Muslim lands, today’s current events are particularly distressing.

For as much as I would like to base a piece upon the surreal esoterica of my current work, I want my ideas to be clear, not shrouded in so many layers that the viewer misreads. I look at the relationship of my country of origin and the Middle East from ultimately clear practical terminology. There is no tales of Scheherazade or Little Mook and although the events may seem surreal, they are anything but that. For I encounter now an idea of some unassailable truth named ‘democracy’. In this new reality the America-flavored brand is sacrosanct, exported as a side dish to capitalism. They go hand in hand, and if there are objections to one, well then, they are branded enemies of democracy. And objection to intent begets conflict. And the word ‘enemy’ is thrown other. There is a culture of aggressive ignorance in this country, which is ripe for ‘other’-exploitation. For as much as this country has been a land of immigrants, it has relentlessly persecuted waves of immigrants whether immigrants by force or by necessity, for centuries. Americans live in a post-WWII fantasy that their government is utterly altruistic, and through a haze of entertainment, food and lethargy have descended into a pool of deepening denial. I will be working with the dichotomy of perception. Having the most technology, we should be the most intelligent, progressive people, but we are actually the most manipulated, illiterate, willfully ignorant, people on the planet, hiding behind isolation and bigger guns. We are the new ‘good Germans’, just following orders, pretending nothing is the matter. We are the crowd and our government is the Emperor with new clothes.

Gordon Fluke
, Feeling Safe at Home

annie’s 1
Annie Gedicks, She Tells Herself Stories
She Tells Herself Stories, in the gap between rationality and emotion, forces of nature become my metaphor for human experience. Within this nature – as – experience metaphor, I am interested in stories: our stories, my stories, her stories. Stories about how we interact with one another, with groups and with ourselves. Through stories, we create our internal emotional worlds, worlds that help us to make sense of an external reality. My own external reality involves culture, landscape and place. My working metaphor is inspired by descriptions of the Richter scale, which measures the intensity of earthquakes. Earthquakes are caused by stress released by tectonic plates, beneath the earth’s crust. The tremors just under the earth’s surface are like the emotional tremors within our internal worlds. They range from micro quakes that happen daily – not felt, but not unrecorded – to major quakes that are less frequent, but can cause significant damage in populated areas.

“I am realizing the nature world is my connection to myself.” The solitude I find in the outdoors is meditative; I wonder, are we really that different from nature? Our personal disasters are as sudden and forceful, as devastating and destructive, as insignificant. They are terrible. They are beautiful.

Samina Ikbal
, Missing Me

Like many other immigrants, I feel a person is trying to sail two boats at the same time. This very feeling of displacement, while living in one place and than longing for the other, evokes the dilemma of actually not belonging to any of the places. I have been making the effort of keeping in touch with both homelands, Pakistan and USA. Somehow, with this rapidly changing of world’s raises the issues of one’s identity, so is mine.

For me besides the issue of being person of no land, I am also exposed to the challenge of finding my identity as a person within myslef, regardless of where I am situated. I am a mother of two and the challanges and chores of everyday life takes a lot of me as an artist and a teacher. This ongoing juggling of finding a balance between my roles sometimes make me think even, if I exist as a person. In this piece “Missing me”, I am borrowing a visual vocabulary like maps of USA, marriage ceritificates, stamps from Pakistan, birth certificates as well as many other legal documents to validate my existence at one place or the other.

Hiba Kalache
, This is what it is always been about
I am interested in how familiar images tend to be immediately associated with perceptions. Through the combination of symbols and visual language, I opt not to give a one sided story or an answer but rather have an open endedness leading to constructed imaginary  worlds. References to candidness of childhood and the way it is more and more politicized on wars and human conditioning as culturaly pushed towards being normalized and free of guilt. Daily interuptions and personal history—how does one lone let them feed into the work and simultaneously stay disconnected?
Elizabeth Klimek, Immigration-Integration
I am currently starting a body of work that is three-dimensional. I first print on paper, and cut and fold it into shapes, currently I am working with the universal house shape. As one walks around the three-dimensional print, the viewer quickly realizes that they are witnessing a progression for time which takes place within three or four seconds. In some instances a kiss is taking place, in others a fight, or some action which takes place between people while in the privacy of their homes. It is the intent to show the viewer on the outside of the house what is taking place inside the house. It is my goal to address the subject matter of the Middle East portfolio and express that regardless of race and culture, we all express universal emotions and engage in similar activities of the home, no matter who we are.

Print 3
Ina Kaur, Reclaiming the Identity
My interest in hybridity, identity and its symbolic representation is at the center of my work, from a macro to a micro level. As an Indian woman, I explore the continuum of cross-cultural negotiation made necessary both by the historical occupation of east by west and by my displacement and relocation. I have been culturally assimilated – I am a bicultural hybrid. My work represents this hybrid identity formed through personal, cultural and spiritual experience. The prints shown here combine both conscious and unconscious influences from eastern and western experiences. My visual language incorporates symbols and circular motifs from the East Indian cultural environment. The circle may be considered a universal symbol, but I am reclaiming it as a personal and culturally specific symbol. I merge colors and materials associated with my Indian heritage (heena/henna, coffee, tea, saffron, curry and cotton) with western notions of abstraction and aesthetics. I feel compelled to traverse the terrain between the traditional and the contemporary, between East and West.

Suzan Khayrallah
, Untitled

Print 2
Scott Ludwig, The Conference of the Birds (Eyes in the Sky)
Recently, my work has considered notions of past/present, place/environment, both in terms of process and content. The conclusion drawn is that as we tumble through the spiral of time and history, we often find ourselves relearning the lessons of humanity’s copious miscalculations, over and over again. Divisions abound: religious, social, cultural, geographic, and are clearly defined in what we see depicted on maps and satellite imagery. In this image, satellite views of Iraq and Washington, D.C. are juxtaposed yet converged, with a superimposed schematic for bridge construction. The title of this image, “The Conference of the Birds”, is the title of a book of Persian poems written in the 12th century by Farid ud-Din Attar. In this poem, a journey undertaken by a group of 30 birds, led by a beautiful hoopoe (a bird similar to a Kingfisher), serves as an allegory of a Sufi master leading his pupils to ‘enlightenment’. Perhaps one day we will find true meaning in this search. But we must build bridges to get there. As an African American born and raised in western Culture re-interpretation is at the heart of my existence. I come from a people (my African ancestors) who have re-interpreted and re-invented themselves at the hands of western culture. However we are not alone, many other cultures are going through hybridization. My print will visually question this hybrid identity created by the fusion of two distinctly different cultures.

Delita Martin, Bearing Sights
As an African American born and raised in western Culture re-interpretation is at the heart of my existence. I come from a people (my African ancestors) who have re-interpreted and re-invented themselves at the hands of western culture. However we are not alone, many other cultures are going through hybridization. My print will visually question this hybrid identity created by the fusion of two distinctly different cultures.

cats cradel
Heather Muise, Cats Cradle
My work centers around the theme of transformation in its many aspects. I attempt to examine change through adaptation, mutation, exchange, translation, conversion or alteration, on both physical and mystical levels. For this portfolio I plan to examine the transformation that took place within myself, a Canadian woman, and my students, Emirati women, as a result of the five years we spent together exploring image making and the creative spirit.

Candace Nicol, Shattered
Shattered hints at the contradictions in United States’ idealistic ideology of “the melting pot” and equality. The Statue of Liberty, a symbol of hope and personal freedom has replaced her torch for a puppet. The puppet, a Jack in the Box represents the underlying sources of oppression, that of greed and capitalism. The shattered pieces of Liberty are images taken from mass media illustrating ongoing injustices that the United States participates in. The print was printed in blue and yellow on Unryu to resemble the texture of crumpled currency.

Andrew Polk, Bethlehem
We live in two worlds – the one of nature and the one of industry. My work reflects a preoccupation with how these worlds are at odds with each other. While contemporary industry seems hell-bent upon destroying the Earth, nature is not without her own vengeful disposition. My work is intended to reflect the energies of natural disasters and their aftermaths, complete with remnants of what might have once been the products of an industrial world.

Kathryn Reeves, Two Women
I’m interested in the idea of objects and language used to reveal and obscure meaning. My recent prints involve virtual assemblage in a series called “Curious Objects.” I’m fascinated with prints and found objects such as a pencil imprinted with the words USA EMPIRE INTEGRITY No. 2 – words that read as a code hiding and revealing intention just like the coded language of hate directed against Muslims and so many people around the world. Questions or question marks assembled often appear in my work, asking us to be curious and question representation and misrepresentation. Juxtaposition and interpolation are important strategies in my work. “Two Women” starts with two found prints – a page from a 19th century French book called “La Persane” and an old photograph of my mother. Both objects contained images of women with head coverings and veils. I digitally “erased” much of the colonialist language describing the woman in the image on the left and inserted a multiple-choice question.

Print 5
Jeffrey Rollins, Uprising
University students througout the world were emailed and asked to contribute a translation of the story of the Tower of Babel in one of many Middle Eastern and Near Eastern Languages. Twelves translations, Consisting of Hebrew, Farsi, Cyriac, latin, Armenian, Arabic, Greek, Yeddish, Turkish, Azeri, Kurdish, and Babylonian Aramaic, were then combined in a drawing to form one single hand written text.

Annie Ross, Wish
The World is made of many things. Humans create events beginning with words and dreams. The central image here are two young men who stand behind barbed wire, symbolizing the people in the Middle East who cross checkpoints, and who are fenced inside of their marginalized home lands, and kept out of their neighbors territory. Below are Echinacea flowers, a medicine for human ailments, and a waterfall, with water as a special and powerful medicine. Fences are visible and invisible, and I think of the invisible fence around American Indian reserves and reservations in the U.S and Canada. These fences are barriers to freedom, to safe homes, to economic parity and actualization of our potential rights. In Wish, the barbed wire fence falls away to become, a house. Every living thing needs and has a home. People trying to take away another’s home creates terrible violence and multi generational suffering that will not end until the home is make whole again. Floating above the house image is a stylized apartment home, a place were many people can live together in peace, in recognition for the many places where diverse peoples with varied worldviews live, work, and love together. Below the apartment, a face floats, symbolizing prayer, hope, and thoughts. These things are beginning of justice- to dream it, to imagine it, and to make it real.

Farouk Saad,
In the moral and the spiritual world we are all one under the will of God

Nada Shalaby, Where The Rivers Meet
Terminology relating to the Middle East has a topography of its own, a complex and layered history of associations that goes well beyond the shallow duality of “East” and “West”. In Where the Rivers Meet, I explore connections between two cities linked by the name “Cairo”. The name of the Egyptian capital was chosen in the 19th century for a new city established at the southernmost tip of Illinois, where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers converge. Builders of the new city were inspired by the Egypt in Biblical tradition; the fertile river valley which they settled called to mind the Nile Valley. Today some of these associations remain, and the nickname of “Little Egypt” is still used by many to refer to the southernmost part of Illinois. Shared references, symbols and terminology evoke a complex relationship and historical identification that continues to exist beneath the surface of current political discourse. It is this point of convergence that inspired the piece.

Özlem (özgür) Silverstein, Transformation
Growing up in Istanbul, I was imbued with hybrid sensibilities of Eastern form and Western perspective and composition. Turkey was the seat of the Ottoman Empire, but also carries the traces of ancient Greek, Byzantine and Armenian histories and cultures. Middle Eastern motifs in art, architecture, design, literature, clothing and lifestyles, have been re-examined from new perspectives and in new frameworks. It seems that my subjectivity embodies this rather unique environment, and a concern with cross-cultural understanding is at the heart of the work I am doing as an artist. I am trying to produce socially critical work that contributes to a diagnosis and analysis of our current circumstances, with an aim to contributing to a greater sensitivity towards the humanity of others. I am attempting in my art to critique some commonplace assumptions, and the workings of hierarchies and power. I am particularly hoping to contribute to discussions and debates about the effects of US power in the Middle East, for it is only by attempting to ascertain what effects we are having on others, disproportionately to their effects on our lives, that we can have any hope of exercising our power responsibly. My aim in making this particular print “Transformation’ is to tell the story of a transformation. Middle Eastern peoples, Middle Eastern identities and cultures, as well as Islam continue to be seen in the West as central to an axis of evil. Hate-mongers, with the connivance of some players in mass media, play into the hands of extremists who want to see a deterioration of relations between the Middle East and the West, by portraying Middle Easterners as the “dangerous other” who needs or deserves some kind of military intervention. We are racially profiled in the US and in some European countries. Being from the Middle East is considered identical to being a terrorist, fanatic or irrational according to some people who unfortunately hold powerful and influential positions in society and politics. We still need to hold our heads up, believing that things will be better in the future if we support each other, and to continue to resist these ideological attacks in these difficult times. We cannot stop resistance nor supporting each other, nor fighting against the stereotypes perpetuated about us.

mass 1
Sylvia Taylor, Mass
I have a friend who lives in the Middle East with whom I exchanged a series of emails a couple of years ago. She was asking for help to find homes for her children. She wanted them to be able to continue in school but mostly she wanted them to be safe. She described her panic and confusion about everyday decisions. Should she shop for food? Should she stay inside? The ideas for my print came about primarily as a result of these conversations with this friend.

The title of my print is Mass and it speaks to the issue of Diaspora from a few different perspectives. Large communities of displaced people are in a mass migration – leaving home. My friend was able to find places outside of her country for her children to stay, and I’m well aware that she is one of the fortunate ones given the situation. Many families are scattered to the wind, displaced from one another. This sense of mass migration is referenced in my print by the hundreds of creatures roaming over ambiguous terrain.

I often use animals in my work to address social, psychological and political themes, not unlike age old story-telling as seen in Aesop’s Fables, La Fontaine’s Fables and the Arabic folklore of Kalila and Dimna. Typically, in these fables with animals there is an instructional intent, a combination of the practical message with magical animals that think, behave and talk like people. Animals are usually chosen because of the human traits attributed to them such as the cunning fox, wily coyote or majestic lion.

The creatures in my own work are chosen for other reasons. I chose an animal (or it chooses me) intuitively. I find myself drawn to a particular animal and it may be used in a way that contradicts typical associations. I’m far more interested in the ambiguities and mysteries of our relationships with animals and the humanity and instincts they reflect. I hesitate to say what my work “means” in any conclusive way. My work always has an autobiographical layer that most likely is not about an issue exclusive to me. My hope is that the impulse that has generated the work will speak to the topic at hand and the viewer in myriad ways.

shadows and strings

Melanie Walker, Shadows & Strings
Puppets, stages, issues of control, satire and belief were some of the issues that came to mind in considering Shadows & Strings. Puppet shows are far more than a form of juvenile entertainment. They can be broad social comedy and depict historical events when the people have fewer outlets for grievances. After all, puppets cannot be held responsible for their words or deeds!

I chose to use a process that would incorporate layers and transparency as a reflection on the issues of the world stage. The complexities are indeed layered and there is a desperate need for transparency. The print is mixed media with a combination of archival pigment print, wax and Kozo paper.


Sue Wilson, Connected with love
Numerous cultural, religious, educational and political differences between the Middle East and the West do exist today. With so much misleading information generated daily by the media, it is easy to become confused and biased. However, despite our divergent backgrounds and beliefs, we do share simple but profound similarities. Simply put, we are all connected on this earth as members of the family of the human race. It is time to focus on the connections we share with those from other countries.

Melanie Yazzie, Keeping
The hand of Fatima has been used in the Islamic world as a symbol of patience, and faithfulness. The Image of corn is symbolic of fertility, blessings and helps one keep in balance in this world. They are both things that keep us safe and in harmony. Please look up the meaning of both images and you will find our more about our two cultures the Native American people of the Americas and the people of the Middle East. We were and are very tribal and tied to the land. This print speaks of this connection. I am thankful for knowing May Hariri Aboutaam and I am happy we are good friends. This print is also about this friendship which brings me hope and beauty. I hope you enjoy it as I do.

Sang-Mi Yoo, Mirage
investigates forms that people associate with the Arabic culture and countries although many cities in the region have developed modern building designs; we are still under the assumption of nomadic housings when thinking of the Arabic dwelling form. I used layers of altered tourist photograph, Korean handwriting composition format and color blind test, all of which became a print form.

Ala Younis, The woman with the Veil
I come from a part of the world where women, including my sisters, wear the veil. I did not realize the extent to which the veil was unaccepted by the West until I experienced this dislike first-hand. The woman with the veil! They gaze at her and see oppression mingled with terrorism. I know her and I see life blossoming in her soul.


1 Comment

  1. I am honored to see everyone’s work in this project – beautiful!

    May you are building wonderful connections that are going beyond what many of us even know about. I love the works in the whole project and hope more will be coming in the future!

    My whole evening has been made even better for seeing everyone’s work!

    Thank you all! And thank you May for all your hard work!!!

    Melanie Yazzie

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