I am working on a series of portraits of people from diverse backgrounds based on interviews conducted with the subjects about what items or garments they wear on their heads and what this means to them. Whether they wear a headscarf or a baseball cap, a wig or a yarmulke, my subjects will help me to celebrate cultural diversity through a lively art installation featuring painted portraits and written and recorded interviews.
My past artistic practice has been divided between my painted work of vulnerable botanical and zoological environments and my work with vulnerable human populations in the Middle East where I teach art in refugee camps. My goal for “On My Head. In My Heart” is to combine these two practices.
My inspiration for this project is the current political tension around diversity, immigration and cultural expression. After September 1, 2001 people who were Muslim – or appeared to be Muslim – in the United States were targeted because of their appearance. Many who were not Muslim but were misunderstood to be so because they wore turbans or beards were also targeted and some lost their lives. I believe such bigotry stems from ignorance and my project aims to enlighten viewers as to the subtleties, joys and richness of sartorial expression.
The project is joyful rather than preachy. It is a celebration. One could even call it a hat party and indeed the opening party will be a gathering of the subjects in the portraits wearing their head gear. What a festival of fun and diversity at a time when such a thing is needed!
Funded by Seattle, WA (May 2018)