Chemical Weapons, Chemotherapy
42 x 68 in. (106.68 x 172.72 cm.)
Executed in 2016
The Buyer’s premium for this lot will be donated to The Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF)
The IIE Scholar Rescue Fund formalizes an unwavering commitment that IIE has demonstrated for over 90 years to preserve the lives, voices, and ideas of scholars around the globe. IIE-SRF fellowships support visiting appointments for threatened professors and researchers to continue their work in safety at partnering academic institutions worldwide. At the heart of IIE-SRF is the idea that each scholar we support who continues his or her work is a beacon of hope in our world. With more displaced scholars now than at any point in history, this effort is more needed than ever.
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I didn't leave room for interpretation. I wanted it to be shocking, exciting, and to shed light on what is happening to humans being elsewhere in the world. I wanted to provide a psychological impression that remains even when the paint itself has passed. Because I underwent chemotherapy, I used my body as a self-portrait. The artist Oscar Kokoschka once said, “I used to be subjective, and I was always tempted to find my inner self in the exterior and dissipate my imagination on other people and on life.” In the same way, this work reflects a departure from a certain circumstance and movement into a new situation where one can daringly look the past and the present in the face. The Syrian people have lived through devastation since the start of the country’s conflict: subjugation, murder, and even chemical weapons. But what is even more crucial is finding empowerment in their position as the oppressed.
Dr. Jumana Jaber is a Syrian artist and professor of visual art and design whose artwork has been exhibited in Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S., including at the Syrian Ministry of Culture and the National Museum of Damascus. Her portfolio spans architecture, interior design, and the foundations of Islamic art, including pieces that explore the relationship between ancient and contemporary architecture in Syria. Establishing one of the first theater and design undergraduate degree programs at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus, Dr. Jaber restored a number of traditional buildings that are hundreds of years old and which represent the unique architecture of Damascus and Al-Sewaida.
As the violence in Syria escalated, Dr. Jaber sought urgent assistance from the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF), which provides academic fellowships and additional vital support for scholars whose lives and work are threatened in their home countries. Forced to flee her native Syria due to the conflict and intensifying religious conservatism, she was supported by IIE-SRF to undertake a visiting professorship at Montclair State University from 2013 to 2015. While on the IIE-SRF fellowship, she created art that is a study in contrasts. She uses two- and three-dimensional materials to explore the relationship between a flat surface and its integrated 3-D components, such as shadows, light, and changing perspectives. Dr. Jaber says about her work, “Depending on the light source, the combination of the two [dimensions] will create an endless variety of possibilities. As the viewer changes their position, it changes their perspective.” Currently, she uses the shape of a chair as a unifying element of her work. The chair symbolizes power, and her work represents a critique of predominant religious and political power structures.
Dr. Jaber is a visiting assistant professor of art and design at Montclair State University, a position she maintained after completing her IIE-SRF fellowship. She is the first recipient of the Janet Hennessey Dilenschneider Scholar Rescue Award in the Arts, which supports IIE-SRF fellowships to threatened scholars in fields such as the visual arts, literature, and music.
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