Images are an important part of my work, whether I’m capturing, animating, collecting, organizing, or broadcasting them.
The Origins series’ new iteration is currently at Signs and Symbols in Manhattan. Artists Sharon Louden and Hrag Vartanian continues to create new spaces that emerge from the contours of their friendship.
I was invited by artist Sharon Louden to collaborate with her in her studio at the 2018 Open Studios Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program. We prepared this installation, titled Origins, for the event on April 27–29, 2018, and it includes a video (available for viewing on YouTube) and wall paintings, in addition to the raw aluminum sheets — which dominate the installation — and its colorful accents. A small set of photographs is available on my Flickrstream.
This is the text that was available to visitors of the installation:
The origin of art is rooted in relationships. The ancient Greek historian Pliny suggests art was born when a Corinthian maiden traced the outline of her lover’s shadow on a wall. Another story tells of a young man who could not paint the Buddha because of his enlightened glow, and so was forced to paint the holy man’s reflection (or projection) in a pool of water. Both tales emphasize the need to fix a memory from the start, but they also point to the desire to retain a connection to someone special. These, of course, are only a few of the many origin stories of art, but they both point to the urge to remember, even if the result is a rough facsimile.
The journey of art meanders through the accumulation and excavation of experience, and in this installation Louden and Vartanian reflect on their five-year professional and personal relationship as a starting point for a larger investigation into the notion of origins, whether through the lens of family, childhood, ideology, communication systems, or material culture.
My best work combines both images and text, but I have a deep appreciation and knowledge of the history of photography, particularly regarding its role in power structures and how it can be used as a tool for liberation struggles.
Reading Susan Sontag’s On Photography was what made me want to study art. I found a copy on a bench outside the Boy Scout of Canada’s headquarters on Toronto’s Bloor Street. It was after hours and no one else was around so I took it.
I read that silver-covered paperback in the next few days and it felt like a truck just hit me. My dad was a photographer in Aleppo before we immigrated to Toronto, and soon enough I was taking classes driven by the added urgency I found in the words of Sontag, and I’ve been making images ever since.
I’ve drawn my entire life but mostly in association with my writings. Together I think of them as a type of illumination, working in union but also exploring ideas and aesthetics unique to their medium as well.
I exhibited my koan watercolors as part of the Word Up! exhibition at the C24 gallery in New York, which was co-curated by David Terry and Sharon Louden. Inspired by the world around me and words and phrases that I can’t get our of my head. They’re often created while I’m on planes, trains, and other transient spaces, like hotel rooms or cafés.
I created an art review in GIF format. I like to think of my GIFs as sparklers or butterflies, fluttering across your screen. I’ve used ballerinas, On Kawara, Marcel Duchamp, La Pocha Nostra, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Paolo Veronese, reality tv, auctioneers, and many other things as muses for some of my favorites. I’ve already created various editorial art works for Hyperallergic, particularly for the recurring Videodrome series (1, 2, 3) and our annual commissioned Season’s Greetings gif series.
Here are some favorites.