EXHIBITION: the map is not the territory

When you’re on the water, there’s not a straight line.
There’s no lines. There’s probably some people that
go on the ocean and they go on a straight line, and they beat themselves up doing it. You need to make your own route and you need to make your own maps. You need to question the maps that are given,
that are publicized. I think the arts do that beautifully.
I really do. How do we, as indigenous people,
decolonize our sexualities, our genders, and the way we view those who
identify outside of the binaries male or female? And it’s really to look at
these concepts through an indigenous lens and worldview to think about
how we worked with our community in the past and undoing certain elements of
homophobia, transphobia, and different elements that we’ve
learned through colonization. There is a very rich and deep history of broken
promises within the history of colonizing the Americas. Decolonization is an ongoing project given
the history of so many empires all around the world and so many oppressions.
So whether it’s from the perspective of gender equality or sexual orientation, or class difference,
or resisting white nationalist narratives, hopefully, we can make a difference
to include more people within the realm of a good life. I think that with my work, and how I make my work,
it really relates to me trying to figure out how I can connect myself to the world around me,
but also to where I’m from. So, for me, it’s like I find that a lot of
my work is either discovering how to be involved in learning, like cultural sort of action
like beading or making mocassins. Or it’s a way to sort of figure out how to
comment or look at the world and how do I situate myself
within that place and space and history? After the election of Donald Trump,
I had a kind of artistic crisis. I really felt, what can I do as an artist?
and was, you know, really flummoxed. One of the things that I find most distressing,
and I think this has to do with being the mother of a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, is you just hear all these stories about
how people went on with their lives and sort of went, “oh, that’s happening over there.”
and I notice that with myself all the time. I’m trying to change things in my life
to be less complicit in all the bad stuff that’s going on. That’s part of what I’m trying to do with these pieces
is to put people inside of these things and make them feel that all of this is happening
on their watch, to them. I want people to think. Mainly I want the emotion.
You know, if you say you were so moved, then maybe you will move. In this discussion of multiculturalism in the arts,
one facet that is constantly sort of swum around or not included are artists who are from
the Arab world or that have Arab ties. And I felt like if there was anybody that
should be tackling the crossover of world events and the Arab world on US policy and on US experience,
it should be somebody who has that association. And that happened to be me. But, I was very hesitant for a long time to do that
because I am a second-generation Arab-American and I find that all those alliances have their
responsibilities and their perspectives and you need to understand them and once I convinced myself that having that
perspective was valuable to the larger discussion, then I started making a series of pieces
called “Impossible Monuments.” A vessel is a very fundamental
creator of difference. Once you have a vessel,
you have an inside and an outside. It affects the world. It doesn’t simply hold a thing,
it embodies a situation where you can have something sacred and something profane. You can have something contaminated
and something pure. And I think a lot of my work
revolves around these borders or moments of encounter
or edges. And the vessel, for me, seem like something
that is so straightforward, and yet it’s effect is really quite profound. I think that one of the best things
about being an artist and, especially as a painter, is to go in search of surprises and
I think that the allegory at the core of the premise for this exhibition
is about exploration and discovery and mapping, perhaps. And that, for me, there’s like a really
correlation between being out in the world, making those discoveries about what’s around
the next corner of the canyon, to being in the studio and working as a painter and
constantly seeking those surprises, some of which are fortunate and some of which are
minute little disasters that you have to fix.

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