Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Zahra Marwan Presents Watercolor Paintings Show at Hecho a Mano: ‘A Rose is a Rose is a Rose’

A solo show featuring watercolor paintings centering roses and Arab poetry by Albuquerque-based artist Zahra Marwan

Zahra Marwan, And the angel squeezed all of the doubts out of him

Zahra Marwan, And the angel squeezed all of the doubts out of him, 2024, watercolor & ink on paper, 32 x 20

Zahra Marwan’s dreamlike watercolors have always had a close relationship with the written word: the origin of her paintings is often a sparse yet evocative line of text. Born in Kuwait, Marwan is the author of Where Butterflies Fill the Sky (Bloomsbury Publishing NYC, 2022), which chronicles her family’s journey from Kuwait to Albuquerque, NM when she was a child, escaping discrimination in Kuwait where she and much of her family were considered stateless and were subject to open discrimination and discriminatory laws.

In her show at Hecho a Mano, Marwan’s skill for marrying language and art is evident in watercolor paintings centering roses and Arab poetry. Drawn from the seven Mu’allaqat—the ancient Suspended Odes that were hung in the Kaaba in Mecca and were so dear to the Arabs that they were written in gold—Marwan’s paintings evoke a feeling of awe and longing. 

Marwan describes the paintings’ mood as akin to Saadi Shirazi's Gulistān, or Rose Garden, a work composed of short prose in chapters. She was inspired, too, by an image from the medieval romantic epic The Romance of the Rose, in which the character Amant falls asleep and wakes up in the garden from his dream. Her paintings suggest the greater historical Andalusian influences and connection to Arabic poetry written on the Iberian Peninsula.

The show’s title comes from Gertrude Stein’s 1913 poem, “Sacred Emily,” which was inspired by Stein’s search for a new language in collaboration with Picasso. Marwan says she read the poem in Paris in October: “Fragmented and repetitive, it kept reappearing starkly in my life,” she says.  

Marwan has received several book awards and recognitions, including the New York Times/New York Public Library’s Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2022. “Receiving news that my work was in the New York Times Ten Best Illustrated Books was really an absolute dream,” Marwan says, explaining that during the first few years she was sharing her work, she was told by publishers that it wasn’t a good fit for picture books, and by the fine art world that it wasn’t a good fit for galleries. “To see it be uplifted felt almost miraculous after so many eloquent rejections,” Marwan says. 

She also received the United Nations Human Rights Commission Art Award for creating art that uplifts statelessness in 2022. “We are handed down ancient poems, suspended odes in gold, our lives like a rose garden in chapters,” Marwan says. 

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose opens July 5, and is on view through July 29.

Contact Information:
Frank Rose
Creative Conductor
[email protected]
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07.2024 Zahra Marwan

Original Source: Zahra Marwan Presents Watercolor Paintings Show at Hecho a Mano: 'A Rose is a Rose is a Rose'
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