Memory of Here, Memory of There

“Nostalgic Paralysis” by Samira Abassy.

Memory of Here, Memory of There: Fertile Crescent Dialogues, at the West Windsor Arts Center September 2 through October 12 with a reception for the artists September 8, 6 to 8 pm, includes the artwork of six women who have heritage in Tunisia, Iran, Egypt and Israel. They are Americans, but experience an identity crisis: they are often pigeon holed because of their country of origin.

Memory of Here, Memory of There is part of the Fertile Crescent Project, a showcase of exhibitions, lectures, performances, film screenings and events focused on women from the Middle East.

Fertile Crescent Project is an initiative of Judith K. Brodsky and Ferris Olin, founding directors of the Institute of Women and Art at Rutgers. Fertile Crescent programs will take place at venues from New Brunswick and Trenton, including Rutgers, Princeton University, the College of New Jersey, libraries and arts centers, and showcase the work of Muslim and other Middle Eastern women artists, filmmakers, and writers, and their contributions to art, literature and film. Fertile Crescent Project intends to stimulate conversation and instill pride in the cultural heritage of New Jersey’s growing population from the Muslim and Middle Eastern Diaspora.

“Memory of Here, Memory of There artists have the knowledge of more than one

“Electronic Yellow” by Emna Zghal.

cultural world,” says Guest Curator Anne McKeown. “They work in visual mediums to communicate with and comment on the world around them. The richness of these different voices allows them to engage in visual discussion.”

Participating artists include Emna Zghal, Nadia Ayari, Dahlia Elsayed, Milcah Bassel, Samira Abbassy and Armita Raafat. 

Samira Abbassy was born in Ahwaz, Iran, and moved to London as a child. After graduating from Canterbury College of Art, she began exhibiting in London. In 1988 she moved to New York to help to set up the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Center, where she has a studio and is a board member. Her work is shown internationally and has been acquired for private and public collections. Her 2007 New York solo show was reviewed in the New York Times and in Newsday.

From the “Without Walls” installation by Nadia Ayari.

Nadia Ayari came to the U.S. from Tunisia in 2000 and earned her MFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2010, she co-represented the U.S. at the 12th International Cairo Biennale and in 2011 participated in the third Thessaloniki Biennale representing Tunisia. Her work is included in the Saatchi collection, London, and the State Museum of Contemporary Art’s collection in Thessaloniki, among others. In February 2011, her third solo show opened at Monya Rowe Gallery in New York, where she currently lives and works.

Milcah Bassel was born in 1981 in Boston and raised in Jerusalem. She studied drawing and painting at the Jerusalem Studio School, Alternative Medicine at Lev Hamaga College in Israel and received her Post Baccalaureate in Studio Art from Brandeis University in 2011. Bassel is an MFA candidate at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Her drawings and installations explore the complex and constantly shifting relationship between bodies and framed spaces.

Emna Zghal is a Tunisian-born, U.S.-based artist. Her work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Zghal has received fellowship residencies and her work has been reviewed in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Artforum, ARTnews and The New Yorker, in addition to Tunisian publications. Her portfolio of prints The Prophet of Black Folk about the 9th Century African slave revolt in Iraq was acquired by Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, N.Y. Other works are in public and private collections in the U.S. and Tunisia. Her book Plato Pineapple Poetry Painting is published with a grant from the Creative Capital Foundation.

Armita Raafat’s installations and sculptures weave together intricate structures, patterns, and motifs of Islamic and Pre-Islamic Iranian architecture. She introduces an ornamental form transformed by the culture, history and politics that produced it, and translates it through the lens of her personal experience. Raafat received her BFA from Al-Zahra University in Tehran, and completed her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008. Her work has been featured in solo and group shows in Tehran, Chicago and New York. Her solo exhibitions have been reviewed in Art in America and New City. In 2011 she was featured in Out of Rubble, abookby Susanne Slavick and Holly Edwards. Raafat was a 2009 recipient of a swing space residency with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and is doing a studio residency with the Elizabeth Foundations for the Arts in New York.

Dahlia Elsayed (born 1969 in New York City) graduated from Barnard College 1992, received her MFA from Columbia University in 1994, and lives and works in New Jersey. Her practice focuses on the relationship between image and text, specifically how language shapes landscape. Her paintings, installations and prints synthesize an internal and external experience of place, connecting the psychological with the topographical. She pulls ideas from conceptual art, comics, cartography and landscape painting and employs symbols of hard data—text, geologic forms, geographic borders, signs/markers, coastlines, tide schedules—to frame the ephemeral. Her work has been exhibited at galleries and art institutions throughout the United States and internationally. Her work is in the public collections of the Newark Museum, the Zimmerli Art Museum, Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and New Jersey State Museum. She has received awards from the Joan Mitchell Foundation 2007, the Edward Albee Foundation 1999, Visual Studies Workshop 2003, Women’s Studio Workshop 2004, Headlands Center for the Arts 2005, and the NJ State Council on the Arts 2004.

Curator Anne Queeney McKeown is an artist whose practice includes painting, printmaking and handmade paper. McKeown’s work has been shown in Japan, Sweden, Cuba and Canada. She has worked with artists at the Artist Proof Studio and Phumani Paper in Johannesburg, South Africa. McKeown has been involved as a panelist, including conducting an interview with Richard Tuttle at the New York Editions and Artist Book Fair 2008, and has juried exhibitions, including the 2007 Philagrafika Invitational Portfolio. McKeown earned her B.S. in Studio Art from Skidmore College and her MFA from Yale University School of Art. Over the last five years her work has been shown at the SOHO20 CHELSEA Gallery New York where she is a Fellowship member. She has shown at Rupert Ravens Contemporary and Gallery Aferro, Newark; at the Jersey City Museum; the Noyes Museum in Oceanville, NJ; the Hogar Collection Gallery in Brooklyn; and 222 Shelby Street in Santa Fe, among others. McKeown works at the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions in collaboration with many artists to make multiples of their work in handmade paper.

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1 Response to Memory of Here, Memory of There

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