Artistic Concerns Q & A

I tend to see my more classical fine artwork (oil painting, ink and sculpture) as adding to the public voice of all artists and sitting in a record of art history. I do think about what my work will mean and say when I am gone. By dedicating a lot of artistic efforts to marginalized peoples (as the primary subject), I hope that my work will help to bring these people out of the margin and into the main stream. I believe that they are worthy of being documented in oil and in bronze etc. in the historical tributary of art.

Using my art to spread my messages, I strive for excellence in technique and medium. I strongly feel it is hard to ignore quality art. And if I can achieve that, it will be impossible to ignore the subject as well. If successful, will get the work shown and opening a dialog about the challenging issues that I feel are important.

As an artist what story/stories do you want to tell the viewers through an exhibit?

Between my Artist’s Statement and the works on exhibit, I believe that most viewers will read the overt story the artwork is telling (without any more explanation). That is especially when it is viewed in a Solo Exhibition. However, since I do use a lot of culturally and time specific references more explanation is needed to some audiences. For example, when I show in the United States, most people are unaware of the Amazigh people (of North Africa) and certainly are no aware of their issues. So, my work serves to invite curiosity and in turn ask for an explanation which both my husband and I have spent a lot of time working on. When I’ve exhibited in Morocco, people get not only the overt but also the deeper cultural symbolism… so that is always exciting for me to see as the artist.

Between the techniques, medium and colour palette and subject, symbolic significance in the message, what is the most important aspect of the creative process in your approach?

Amazigh Art - Tamazight
“Thamazight”

I think it’s important for artists to use the medium and techniques that best works for the subject and theme. However, I must admit that I do tend to get caught up into process. Art of that is due to my having high functioning autism. I can spend hours, days and even months working on details of one work that totally capture my attention. My ink on paper works take months to create. When I show those works (close up) people tend to be shocked at the actual technique I used. So, at that level how the work’s subject relates to the technique one might argue that I am more concerned with the technique than the subject. However, I think they do relate. For example, in the work titled Thamazight, it depicts a wedding scene where the young women are preparing for a calibration of the bride. This is a colorful and very detailed view of the women, clothes and their interaction during the special event. I think the attention to detail in this work speaks to the culture – the level of attention to detail in the culture is reflected in the work I create. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to depict this concept and subject. And I think for better or worse that’s what makes it uniquely and obviously my art work.

How do you dealing with politically challenging subjects?

“Power and Shame”

However, in many presentation I have given at various conferences, I do speak of my political art work (such as “Power and Shame,”) that depicted and represented the torture and killing of the indigenous Amazigh population by the Moroccan government.  One work called “Mother’s Tears” is one of my favorite political works that I couldn’t take to Morocco for the Traveling Exhibition in 2000 for political reasons.

“Mother’s Tears”

Mother’s Tears” represents the “Mother” in a state of intense grief concerning her children who are being killed by the Moroccan government due to their refusal to give up their identity as Amazigh people with their traditions and their language Tamazight. The viewer can clearly see the traditional text called Tifina is imprinted on the skulls of the deceased.

Do I think, as an artist is it important to touch such subjects?

Well. I don’t think it is a requirement, however I think it is helpful to society for artists to choose a subject that represents their personality and their values and take a stand for the betterment of their community. Art is power. And every artist needs to understand that and make decisions about what they want to say with the power they have worked very hard to acquire through hundreds and thousands of hours of work to master their mediums and techniques.  

How does an artistic controversy impact an artist’s career path?

Superficial controversy can elevate one’s work (if lucky) for a short time. All you have to do it look at the internet and specifically YouTube and Instagram to find people getting attention using faddish and silly contrived controversial issues.

For long term serious issues, worked out in a very thoughtful and sometimes subtle way, I think it adds to the artist’s life story. However, it doesn’t give the artist instant fame. In fact, working on serious issues that work toward positive social change can work against the artists commercial popularity.

So, if a young artist thinks ‘hey I’m going to get famous by doing some dangerous and controversial artwork!’ I would ask that they do their research and consider carefully before jumping into work that could bring unwanted danger to their and their family’s lives. Using symbolism can go a long way to help an artist say what they want safely, if used intelligently.

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