In 2005, we were asked to put on a group exhibit of Detroit area Arab artists. We decided to create a thematic multi-media show that would include painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, graphics, video and audio installations, and a mural that we created in situ in the gallery during the duration of the exhibit. We decided on a theme called "Journeys & Distances", focusing on the concept of people in a constant state of "journeying," where people's lives and experiences, through migration and displacement, are linked to the old and the new, where their restlessness is ceaseless and they constantly migrate back and forth, mentally, emotionally or physically, in a search for themselves.
For the exhibit I focused on the intangible memory of land and home in a series of oil paintings.
In exploring our innermost voices, struggling with the mysteries of memory and loss is inevitable. The memories of a distant home are heard as whispers that want to manifest themselves in the outer world of images. I hear the images of a forsaken home, of a home that is like faint shadows of ourselves, of a home that is not familiar any longer, of a more ancient land from which our roots were yanked. Initially these images are intangible and not formed, and so the exploration of these images is an exploration of that which is elusive and pliable. Thus the paintings become abstractions of home and land. The search for these images occurs entirely through the very direct interaction with the media; the exploration of the paint takes form as a discovery of those faint visualizations of home.
The mural that we created in situ is 24 x 8 feet. It was a collaborative work that synthesized many of the themes that the various artists presented in their individual bodies of work. Issues such as migration, sacrifice, loss, cultural transplantation, melancholy, urban industrialization, rural roots, steadfastness, hard work, community, assimilation, identity conflict, heritage, and so on.
all paintings © Ibn Bint Jbeil