Saturday, June 6, 2015

Q&A: Souhad Rafey

This months cover by K.K.W,
with layout by Aleksandar Ares.
Samira Abbassy [left] & Souhad Rafey
"Artistic Weapons of Mass Communication", with Souhad Rafey. Photos & interview by K.K.W

K.K.W: What was the earliest influence of art in your life?

SR: I would have to say my mother, since she was incredibly artistic and creative. As a young child I was impressed by everything, from pottery she made, to works she painted, to clothes she designed and sewed for me. My mother had a great sense of style and an elegant refined taste in all the "art" that encompassed me as a child. I also have vivid memories of visiting weavers in the mountains of Lebanon, at an early age, during one of our family vacations. The experience stayed with me and I ended up minoring in weaving during college and continued the practice for close to 20 years. 

K.K.W:  Was being a curator a call you eventually had to answer, or perhaps something you decided you had to do? 

SR: Not at all. I thought I wanted to work in the arts but I wasn't certain in which way. In graduate school, I went from various departments (craft, art education, art history) before focusing on and receiving an advanced degree in Museum Studies. I experienced work with conservators, registrars, art administrators, and curators before settling on what I do, now.

Art work by Rajie Cook
Art work by Samira Abbassy
K.K.W:  Usually much of what we do reflects some of who we are; do you feel your choices in art show aspects of your subconscious?

SR: Of course.

K.K.W:  All art communicates something, however, these days most of it is far from dealing with important social/political matters. Do you feel this should change in order to improve the art-world?

SR: Aside from social/political matters, I afraid the art world has gone far beyond its tipping point with no reversal in sight. It has become big business at its worst but that is another conversation. I have much respect for artist who stay true to themselves. I appreciate the impact art can have when its relevant. Of course, some artists happen to be much more aware of our world as a whole and they may place greater importance on history and politics than others. This becomes evident in their and intentions of exposing viewers to their views. And artists who chose not to wear their conscience on their canvas may give in other ways, so I prefer not to judge or dismiss work that does not address social/political awareness. I admire creativity and imagination that is born from political turbulence and unrest but it can become a strong ally of revolution only insofar as it remains true to itself.  
Art work by Mary Tuma [foreground], John Halaka [backround]
K.K.W: If the art work is a weapon, then the artist maybe considered dangerous.
And, are they now to be labeled soldiers? 

SR: I guess art that is used to gain a strategic, material or mental advantage over traditional mindsets could be considered a dangerous weapon of sort to other who don't share the same views. In turn, the artist delivering the message may be viewed as the soldier (or recruit or fighter) in this context.

K.K.W: Even strong statements through artistic means doesn't always 
have an impact. What then to reach the "...traditional mindset..."?

SR: Perseverance.

K.K.W:  As the curator, was your focus on effecting the "...traditional mindset...",
or leaving that to the art work itself? 

SR: Both. In tandem, there was more possibility of this occurring. 

K.K.W: Do you feel like some of the message(s) within the show was lost in translation,
given that people need to like the art [& the artist] before they will accept the message?

SR: Most don't like to be force-fed or hit over the head with information. If the message isn't obvious there is so much on the internet that one can find out if interested or confused or in need of more details. FiveMyles was generous in printing a thorough and informative brochure to acompany "Artistic Weapons of Mass Communication" and the gallery also gave the artists an opportunity to discuss their work with the public one evening. 

K.K.W: What is it about art & being involved with it that moves you?

SR: Many aspects - especially the human contact I have with the artists. It is very rare to find galleries in the art world (NYC in particular) as intrepid as Hanne Tierney. She was generous, enthusiastic, and most willing to include work of this loaded content without hesitation. It was both enlightening and refreshing to learn more about FiveMyles and the work it does to continue embracing its community. 
Art work by Ganzeer
If you would like to know more, go 'Art is the reason, art is the way'

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