Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June-July 2012, Pages 56-57
Music and Arts
Artist Manal Deeb Is FROM THERE
From April 20 to May 11, 2012—during a very hot spring—the walls of the Jerusalem Fund Gallery in Washington, DC were cloaked in cool white paintings by Palestinian-American artist Manal Deeb. White—like the clouds of her reflections, as she explores her Palestinian origin, persistent memories of where she comes from and whom she has become. Born in Ramallah in 1968, Deeb grew up under Israeli occupation until she moved to the United States in 1986.
Collaging images, graphics, paint and even tree bark onto her highly textured surfaces, Deeb's paintings are layered like peeling posters on the walls of recollection. In some cases, words from the Qur'an are incorporated to capture the wisdom and power of the verses and to communicate their imaginative energy. Each painting follows a narrative arc in the rhythm of the brushstrokes and the overlaid elements, telling a story about how memories become reality, and how to preserve heritage through art. Pieces of tree bark evoke her childhood games around the almond and fig trees of her homeland. All the incorporated materials become sacred talismans in the narrative of identity.
Deeb paired her paintings with the lyrical poems of Iyad Hayatleh, a Palestinian poet living in Scotland. An excerpt accompanying the painting "FROM THERE":
where the sky, just a bow's length from a sigh,
overshadows the roofs of the houses
born out of tents
as it dries the tears of old women
who weep for the warmth of home they left—
which remain on their eyelashes
wherever they dwell, wherever they go….
The painting "Delirious In Exile," accompanied by a poem about the anguish of longing for home, pulls the viewer deep into a dream-like vortex of swirling movement. Deeb's skillful handling of the pictorial elements enables her to become both painter and storyteller.
Manal Deeb studied studio arts at the University of Illinois in Chicago and earned a bachelor's degree in the psychology of art from George Mason University in Virginia. She was the second in a series of three women artists featured at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery this spring.