11 December 2017

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ArtWalk Ventura Honors Female Artist From Kabul

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Sunday October 8, 2017
Kabul (BNA) At first glance, the paintings created by Shamsia Hassani seem to depict a fantasy of doll-like women with very long eyelashes, all dressed in colorful clothing.
But Hassani, who is this year’s Global Artist of Distinction at ArtWalk Ventura, paints a more sobering picture when she describes her art.
Hassani is a 29-year-old artist from Kabul, Afghanistan. She specializes in painting and graffiti.
“The women only have their eyes closed,” she explained as she sat among her works that line the walls at the Vita Art Center in Ventura. “They are not seeing. They cannot see the future. And they have no mouths, but each has a musical instrument to play louder and get attention if she needs to. She can find a solution indirectly to saying something with her voice.”
Mary Perez and Sue Pollock — who, along with Kevin Clerici of the Downtown Ventura Organization are heading up this year’s ArtWalk Ventura — said they decided it was time to invite a woman to be the event’s third Global Artist of Distinction.
“Shamsia embodied everything we wanted to support. We had seen her work when she was an artist in residence at the Hammer Museum” in Los Angeles. Perez said.
However, tracking down the artist — who has no email address or phone number — was a challenge.
“We got all Nancy Drew about it,” Perez said.
Eventually, through the magic of social media, they were able to connect with Hassani, who is now on a weeks-long tour that started in New York, came to Ventura and is going through Italy before she heads back home to Afghanistan.
Hassani is married to Haroon “Shah” Noori, a filmmaker. She said she misses her husband, who came along on her sojourn to Los Angeles last year, a trip that doubled as a honeymoon.
“He would carry all of my artwork,” she said.
As a female artist in a country steeped in tradition — with many unwilling to accept female independence — painting on the walls of buildings in the war-torn capital of Afghanistan is harrowing.
“I always worry about someone coming up behind me," she said. "People will stop and say mean things to me. Unlike many graffiti artists, I spend a lot of time on my murals. It can take a couple of hours. And women aren’t allowed to go out at night.”
Adding to her challenge is that in Kabul, the spray paint differs from American spray paint.
“Our nozzles are big, so we can’t make lines,” she said, “and the paint is watery and drips.”
Hassani said she got interested in graffiti as an art form in 2010. But it doesn't make money, so, to support herself, she teaches drawing and anatomy at Kabul University. Her art is meant to bridge the gap between herself, other women and “the close-minded people.”
“I know people think art does not belong in our religion and a girl cannot do it,” Hassani said. “It’s hard to change people’s minds with art. But I think I’m changing people’s minds slowly. Everybody should find themselves in my paintings.”
She has hope for the future, as younger Afghanis seek education and expression.
This year’s ArtWalk will feature more than 40 venues and PODS storage units sprinkled around downtown and the west side of Ventura, displaying the work of more than 200 local artists.
This year’s Artist of Distinction is Maribel Hernandez, who works in design, photography, ceramics and painting.
Pollock and Perez, joined by Clerici, took over the Ventura ArtWalk seven years ago from the city of Ventura, which had organized the event for decades. The women say this is their last year at the helm of the weekend-long event, but stressed that ArtWalk will continue even after they’re not running it.
VCSTAR

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