Encoded Histories: Qais Al-Sindy and Doris Bittar
Mesa College, San Diego Opening Reception Thursday, October 16, 5-7 pm., Art Gallery D101
Artist Lecture following reception at 7 pm, G101 Show Runs through November 6, 2014
Article by Cathy Breslaw
Encoded Histories is a two person exhibition examining the notion of cultural and personal identity as it is seen through the eyes of two artists from the middle east who immigrated with their families to the United States. Qais Al-Sindy who came to the U.S. as a consequence of the Iraq War, uses paintings, sculpture, installation and video to capture a range of emotions and memory and to document the journey of leaving one culture behind and learning to embrace a new one. “IOM Luggage” is an installation of the actual two suitcases, commonly called ‘IOM bags’ , that Al-Sindy used to fill with his belongings when he left Iraq – each person was allowed only two pieces of luggage of a specific shape and size. Another installation called “White Undershirt”, is a horizontal line of flagpoles across a wall - each hanging a mens’ white undershirt , formerly displayed outside Iraqi homes as a sign that residents would not attack American military as troops moved into Baghdad. Another installation “Mamdooh”, depicts a series of four paintings of Al-Sindy’s friend who died as a result of a car bomb whose ashes were used in the paintings. There is also a series of large and medium sized acrylic paintings on canvas, expressionistic in style with strong, bold color. A floor piece, “Foot Hold” is a vinyl interactive work with digital images of black and white footprints of varying sizes, inviting visitors to locate their ‘footprint”. Many of Doris Bittar’s works explore multiculturalism through the iconic image of the American flag, which she began using after 9-11. While Jasper John used the American flag in a straightforward but distinctive way, Bittar integrates decorative imagery of middle eastern patterns and designs, and layers of latticed structures loosely based on a grid pattern woven within and in front of the many ‘flag’ images, suggesting a melding of cultural influences. Bittar’s sculptural wall installation(inkjet image on aluminum and laminated wood) “To Be Free” is a combination of the word ‘freedom’ created with Arabic lettering, and forming the shape of a stylized horse interconnected with an appropriated drawing by Eugene Delacroix of a lion eating a horse – symbolizing issues during the Arab Spring. Another wall displays “Encoded Histories”, a large series of small pieces of black scratchboard, each depicting a tiny portion of the patterns used in Bittar’s flag paintings and collages. The work of Qais Al-Sindy and Doris Bittar investigates the historical, social, political, and cultural challenges experienced by having a ‘foot’ in two cultures with sometimes turbulent, adversarial and complex histories and relationships.