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BABYLONINAN WOMEN:
FOUR CALIFORNIAN ARTISTS WITH ROOTS IN IRAQ


September 6th through September 27th, 2007
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 8th, 2007, 6:30-8:30 p.m.


Curated by and includes artist Lidia Shaddow, and also features Halla Ayla, Joyce Dallal and Doris Bittar.

“This exhibition grew from a personal search for artistic representation of the Arab culture in Los Angeles, separate from the news and the negative stigma that resonates from the word ‘Arab’. A view that focused on the beauty and the richness of that and echoes my upbringing. Being born to an Iraqi father in Israel of the early sixties was not something to be proud of, however, my Babylonian roots were not even an issue upon emigrating to America. Between shame and denial of ones cultural identity lays a strong need to reunite with it. In the search for that familiar voice I found these three exceptional artists.” - Curator

Halla Ayla is an Iraqi born American artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work is a synergy of mediums: photography, image transfers, encaustic as well as acrylic and water color paints. Her unique style is an alchemy of her exotic middle eastern influences and her more modern western sensibilities. She is currently working on a 7 part series of exhibits, each one featuring a different Arab region at a time: Egypt, Morocco and the most recent being on the Levant, with the intent of building bridges of peace and understanding between the two worlds: east and west. Her work has received national as well as international recognition, and has been illustrated in various mediums and publications. Says Ayla, “My desire in this series of exhibitions on the Arab world is to reveal the unique allure, beauty and vibrancy of the region and its people. It is my hope as a carrier of these images from east to west that they will act as bridges, illuminating a greater dimension of the Arabs, their incredibly rich , ancient and colorful culture, and reveal the more poetic and enchanting aspects of this very misunderstood part of the world. My hope is that if we can somehow change our perception of people as 'other,' and accept and even celebrate the differences between us, then we have a chance to change the world. ”

Joyce Dallal is an artist who works in a variety of media, from hand-made books and collage to photography, video, installation, and public art. The themes that surface in her artwork are those of collective and personal history, community, memory, and the evolution of contemporary cultural identity. Over the last fifteen years, her work has developed along two distinct tracks. One has been based in personal experience, involving narratives and subjects that grow from her own and her family’s history, and the other has followed subject matter related to specific sites and communities in Los Angeles; this latter track has formed the basis for her community based work and public projects in the Los Feliz and Fairfax branches of the Los Angeles Public Libraries. The two realms are connected by an interest in examining the ways cultural and ethnic identities mix, evolve, and accommodate to contemporary American culture, and in the attempt to understand, describe, and affect that interaction. Her parents are Jews who immigrated to the United States from Baghdad, Iraq and she was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. The struggle to reconcile her Jewish, Iraqi, and American identities has been a major impetus for her work, and this has only intensified in the last fifteen years since the Middle East has come to dominate the media and affect our lives.

Doris Bittar is an accomplished international visual artist whose projects include paintings, photographs and installations. Her primary focus has been on the issues of Middle Eastern history past and present, identity and the intertwined relationships between the peoples of the Middle East and those of the West. Bittar is also an activist and writer. Her endeavors focus on educating the American community about Arab culture and politics. She has tirelessly taken the seemingly incomprehensible complexities of Middle Eastern history, culture and politics and framed them into understandable concepts and narratives. Bittar was born in Baghdad, Iraq of Lebanese parents who returned to Lebanon shortly thereafter. She immigrated to the United States from Beirut as a child. Bittar has received numerous awards, honors and recognitions; her paintings are housed in several public and private collections, and have been reviewed nationally and internationally. Bittar earned her bachelors degree at the State University of New York at Purchase and received a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of California, San Diego. Bittar’s community and conflict resolution work include serving as a board member for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, creating and facilitating Jewish-Palestinian dialogue groups, publishing opinion pieces and making appearances on radio and television. The National Conflict Resolution Center, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union have recognized Bittar’s community and artistic accomplishments.

Lidia Shaddow was born and raised in Israel to an Iraqi father and a Tunisian mother. At the age of fourteen she immigrated with her parents to America. After studying in the School of Visual Arts in New York, she received her illustration major from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Her work has been exhibited in various locations and galleries and her paintings and commissions are owned and continuously acquired by devoted collectors in Israel, France, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. War, terrorism, the struggle for peace and prejudices against Arab/Mizrachi/Sepharadic Jews in her early years are a major influence on her work. Variation on the theme of two entities yearning to reconcile and to exist in harmony side by side is apparent in all her work in various styles, mediums, and sizes, both literally and symbolically. Her strong and vivid sense of color, rich textures and intricate patterns was stimulated by growing up in fields of wheat in the valleys of Israel, of Bedouin embroidery and blue colored homes in the nearby Arab villages that she frequently visited with her father. With Iraq on the daily news and the beauty of the fabulous palm trees of Santa Monica, home to her studio, the stories she once heard of a far away Iraqi towns and tall palm trees along the Dijla river come to life.

The Pomegranate Gallery was established by modernist sculptor Oded Halahmy, a thirty-five-year resident of SoHo, whose recent sculptures will be included in the group exhibition. “As an artist born in Baghdad, it is very exciting for me to bring works by Middle Eastern artists, as well as leading contemporary Iraqi artists to New York City,” says Halahmy. Halahmy, whose large abstract sculptures are in numerous museums including the Guggenheim, the Hirschhorn, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem — felt compelled to open a gallery that would introduce Americans to serious artistic initiatives from the Middle East. He observes that Americans are not only becoming increasingly international in their art collecting, but hopes that his gallery will serve as a cultural ambassador to awaken American consciousness of Middle Eastern Art. In fact Baghdad, Iraq, the cradle of civilization, has historically been viewed as the cultural capitol of the Middle East and primary innovator in the fine arts.

“Although we are all from different ethnic groups, our objective is to encourage all forms of art as an effective long-term means of fostering the peace dialogue. If we all recognize that the arts can be a powerful unifier of disparate cultures, the chance for peace in Iraq, the Middle East, and around the world will be greatly enhanced”, says Halahmy.

The gallery is supported in part by the Oded Halahmy Foundation for the Arts, a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural organization created to fund original artistic expressions that will promote a greater cultural understanding of the Middle East, thereby fostering peace and hope around the world. The Foundation has already supported a number of Middle Eastern writers and poets by bringing their translated books to the American audience.

Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Artists currently featured include Dia Al-Azzawi, Farah Nosh, Ismail Khayat, Hana Mal-Allah, Hayder Ali, Qasim Sabti, Mohammed Al-Shammarey, Nazar Yahya, Ghassan Ghayeb, Esam Pasha, Amar Dawod, Hassan Massoudy, Delair Shaker, Amal Alwan, Naziha Rashid, and Oded Halahmy.
137 Greene Street
NY, NY 10012
212.260.4014
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