My guest today is artist Helen Zughaib, who was born in Beirut. Helen says she knew she wanted a life of painting and making art when she was very young and cites Matisse, Rousseau, Mondrian, and Jacob Lawrence as influences. Growing up primarily in the Arab world, she says, also influenced her — “the light, the patterns and colors on carpets, tiles, and buildings that surrounded me.”
(Click to enlarge)
She graduated from Syracuse University, College of Visual and Performing Arts, in 1981 and, as you can read here at her site, her artwork has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States, Europe, and Lebanon. Currently, she is an artist in residence at Wesley Theological Seminary and is preparing for a solo exhibit at York College in October. She recently returned from Paris, where she had a solo show. She loves to work in gouache. “It provides such rich, clean color,” she says. “I use it very opaquely, as you can see from my style.”
At her site, Helen writes that she believes that the arts are one of the most important ways to help shape dialogue around positive ideas about the Middle East. “Especially since 9/11,” she tells me, “things have changed so much. The immediate backlash towards Arabs and Arab Americans and the negative stereotyping that followed were quite upsetting to me. My work addresses some of this with humor — and a bit of irony, too. I continue to raise the voice of Arabs through my art and hope to build bridges between East and West. We are more alike than not, and I strive for this realization.”
Helen’s art has been included in several books, including Honoring Our Ancestors, edited by Harriet Rohmer, and a book called Laila’s Wedding, written by Kaleel Sakakeeny. She also has a series at her site, called Stories My Father Told Me, which she hopes to publish one day. “Stories My Father Told Me,” she says, “is a series of 24 paintings inspired by my father’s true stories from his early childhood in Damascus, Syria, to young adulthood in Lebanon and finally his immigration to America in 1946. His telling them to his children and grandchildren continue the tradition of the ‘hakawati’ or storyteller in Arabic, stories passed down from generation to generation to teach the young about values, morals, and family traditions in their community.”
Thanks to Helen for visiting and sharing her artwork today! Perhaps one day we readers can hold in our hands an illustrated collection of her father’s stories. …
All artwork is used by permission of Helen Zughaib.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
1) I am nearly done with a piano piece I’ve been working on for months.
2) Warmer days.
3) Finishing up some great new books (read-alouds) with my daughters.
4) I was downright giddy at the chance to interview Mildred D. Taylor.
5) House of Cards is back.
6) When you see your name in unexpected places.
7) Finally saw Spotlight. I was impressed.
What are YOUR kicks this week?