When you look at this country’s media involving Muslims, you’ll notice that it is mostly negative. Whether it is subtle or blatant, American Muslims have to deal with the harsh backlash every day. The spread of Islamophobia promotes violence and racism against Muslims, and as a result the conflict of identity with these American Muslims grows stronger. As they have both the identity of being American as well as being Muslim – and any other cultural background associated with that – it is hard to find that precious balance between them both.
My piece, Khayal (imagination in Arabic), is very whimsical and imaginative. It’s a self-portrait that represents my identity as an Arab-American Muslim woman, my imagination, as well as a response to the media’s outlook on Muslims. There’s a lot of tension right now caused by an anti-Islamic movement. I wanted to show that not all Muslims are as radical as the media likes to portray even if they are seen as alien. I used this self-portrait piece to illustrate that message.
I go along my life not wanting to cause harm or promote hatred in any way towards anyone, which is why I used butterflies and lotus flowers in my piece – to represent purity and innocence. People will stain me with horrible names such as “terrorist,” as well as judge me based on my looks. One cannot judge an entire people by the actions of a few extremists, because, if that were the case, we could clearly judge every group of people and every religion based on people who are extreme or insane, and this wouldn’t do anyone any good. I used those “stains” in my painting by using black India ink around me, trying to permeate my face and alter my image.
In the classical tradition, we drew the models before us. As I drew, the exposed flesh of our models reminded me curiously of the Visual Arts Complex (VAC) building itself. The building provided space for our presence and practice, while our bodies provided us with the tools to transmit our experience onto paper. We were creating a record of shared experience, each drawing being from a different vantage point, creating a collection of marks from different minds. Yet the impersonal presence of this new building reminded me of each session’s tenuousness. This shared experience would dissipate at session’s end, awaiting new models and classes, in perpetuity, the permanence of the VAC contrasted by the impermanence of those who gathered there.
This painting explores the duality of our two selves. The woman holds up her insides – her feelings, guts, wishes, and desires – to be scrutinized and examined. My idea forHolding Space developed out of my recurring thoughts about my body image. The subject places her interiority on the exterior. We all have a space between the outside and inside of ourselves. This space represents a gap that we communicate between, a space where our exterior interacts and our interior contemplates and digests. We are fascinated by how we look on the outside, and explore how we feel on the inside. In reflecting on my body, how I perceive my outside is not how I feel on the inside. I try to align my two selves. My interior’s perceived image of my exterior body becomes twisted and churned through a disjointed conversation between my two selves. I feel different than I look. The painting represents a personal dialogue and contemplation on body issues. It poses this scenario: if we were to hold our insides out, would we perceive our exteriors differently? The authentic and true image would be revealed. Rather than cure the perverse and warped notions of what a body should look like, the subject exposes her physical body with her emotions.
The camera is one of the most important inventions in history – it has entirely transformed how we conceive the world. We can now “see” things separated from us by many miles or even many years. Advancements in photo manipulation have created opportunities for infinite manipulations of reality. This is the space where I seek to expose the power of an image. As a good photojournalist might seek to expose the reality of the world, I seek to expose the reality of my perception of self. My work in self-portraiture seeks to expose internal elements in externally visual ways. My photos are the viewer’s key to my secret garden, down the rabbit hole, through my own looking glass. Through visually displaying my internal reality in an external way, I feel empowered to challenge judgments on my physical realities.
The birthright is a concept that has played an understated, but ever-present role in my work for quite some time. What I inherited from my family ranges from folk tales of my ancestors to a shared history of mental illnesses. Feeling that the more traditionally structured cloisons and formal embellishments of familial sigils had little bearing on 21st century families, I isolated the elements that would be incorporated into my family’s coat of arms and suspended them in a surrealist, weightless space.
My favorite moments to capture through a lens are those when no one is paying attention to me, when I am so much a part of the background that they can be themselves and really let who they are shine through the image. In my opinion, the most beautiful portraits have been taken during an instant when someone wasn’t expecting the click of the camera, because once someone notices a lens pointing at them, a smile appears on their face or they turn quickly away as to not be photographed. This photograph, In the Fast Lane of Growing Up, caught a moment of children’s innocence and curiosity. It brings a sense of nostalgia for me; when I was a child I wanted nothing more than to sit on my dad’s lap and drive his truck on the dirt roads where we lived. As a kid, everything seems like it will be so much better when you grow up; little girls and boys emulate their parents and the “big kids” around them. Even though parents try so hard to keep their children kids for as long as possible, it’s inevitable that kids want to grow up as soon as they possibly can. With the photograph captured in black and white, a story can be spun from each individual that looks at it; colors can be imagined, memories can be had, and even a world outside of the Chevrolet can be pictured. In this moment kids are just being kids, but around them the world goes on, and who knows what brought them to sit in the front seat of that old Chevy truck?
Technology has always played a role in my life, and now more so than ever. Home uses new technology to reflect on the impact technology has had on my life. This digitally constructed work is based on an old photograph taken of me by my mom. It captures a piece of a memory, vivid in my mind, but one that I am not certain I would have retained without the existence of the original more muted photograph.
#01939a is my favorite color – it's the color of the waters off Alan Davis, a fishing spot on the east side of Oahu, in the morning after a light rain. For me, this color tells a story without taking a form. My work is concerned with layers of detail to create a very specific scene. As people, we appropriate, assign meaning and construct stories from pieces of our histories. I am interested in the notion of a collective lens – a co-constructed language – through which we see and communicate. My language is influenced by piers and Japanese architecture – both operating under the architectural ethos of 'touch the earth lightly'.
There is a Chinese proverb that says we are like teapots, filling ourselves with experiences knowing one day it will be time to pour them back. Vessels that serve hold more than the stuff of sustenance; sharing our histories and stories with every cup, these pots become part of our identities through their collective use – mementoes of past kindnesses. They remind us of every cup of tea with a friend, every journey through tides, every tale and tiding that connects us to each other.
I am drawn to cultural patterns and how these gestures are derived from observing the natural world. I am interested in the translucency of glass and how these layers combine, weave, overlap and affect each other much like the accumulation of culture. Formally, I am drawn to Japanese kanji, because more so than other languages, the characters are derived from visual representations of the object. In this way, the evolution of these marks and gestures connects the culture’s stories to objects in a way, and to a level, that doesn’t exist elsewhere; it is this honest ethic of construction that allows us to project our stories, meanings and ways of measuring onto the immeasurable around us.
Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. Sadako lived nearly a decade without any illness from the fallout; that changed when she was hospitalized with leukemia at the age of twelve. While in the hospital, a friend folded her a single paper crane; it’s said that folding one thousand paper cranes grants a single wish. Sadako spent the rest of her life in that hospital, folding paper cranes in the hope of escaping her condition. She didn’t finish. After her death, her friends continued her work, and completed the one thousand paper cranes. This piece celebrates the threshold of the flat page and the magic of creating form and meaning from many little folds.
I am pulled to the concept of threshold, always thinking of that fine boundary dividing what we see above from the aquatic world below. The honu and manta ray are both deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture, with the grace and majesty of their outstretched wings representative of the Hawaiian hospitality and the overarching family ties that are the heart of the people and their culture. Spending many summer mornings fishing and diving, I’m interested in creatures that are such oxymorons – agile and powerful through the riptide, yet so clumsy on land. For me, these creatures reinforce how little we know, and how we are merely guests in their realm. This piece was one of a series of reef-themed concepts for a functional glass table.
The beautiful but arrogant portrait of this woman finds parallel in the juxtaposition of the equally haughty and illustrious rooster in her arms, her gaze challenging and her nature just as vain. The piece explores a comparison of animal and human traits as insight into our psyches, invoking visual similarities in the figures to imply a deeper symbolic connection.
This piece was part of a series exploring “Simple Pleasures,” those things in life (often overlooked and underappreciated) that nourish and calm, please and inspire. For me, one of these joys comes in watching my fish in the tank beside my bed. I will often spend hours in my room, taking in the mesmerizing movements and watching the miniature social dramas unfold; it becomes easy to imagine that my fish have personalities, that they acknowledge my presence and my gaze, that they may as well have joined me in my world, or I them in theirs.
We keep only the necessities at the end of a long life. I made this still life from objects I found in my grandfather’s room after he passed away: a clock, a lamp, a photo taken during WWII, a glass, a beloved book, and the eyeglasses through which he saw them all. I “destroyed” them by covering them with paint, and arranged them into a fictional still life. However, I also immortalized them with this photograph, which will never age. It will outlive me, and perhaps find its way into the hands of my own granddaughter as she attempts to piece together my existence through objects I leave behind.