A River in the Desert

I've recently completed a new piece, for the first time in a couple years, it seems! (River can be seen here). This month has sped along, beginning with an Open Studios event at the complex I rent from and ending with seven sunny days in a row.

 This is me in my studio, ready for the Open Studios event at Hawthorne Arts Complex earlier this month. I sold the two scarves on the left side of the loom, and have completed one more since then.

This is me in my studio, ready for the Open Studios event at Hawthorne Arts Complex earlier this month. I sold the two scarves on the left side of the loom, and have completed one more since then.

River began as a small sketch/sample when I was still working from home. I had cut all the spines off of some book pages I was using for a different project. Using linen thread, I began to weave them together using an off-loom technique similar to coiling. I was rummaging in my materials and found an untouched book from the Life magazine book series, titled The Desert

 First sample that led to creating  River .

First sample that led to creating River.

 Overall shot of  River  when it first came off the loom. You can see some of the leftover book pages on the left side, as well as the first sample I made.

Overall shot of River when it first came off the loom. You can see some of the leftover book pages on the left side, as well as the first sample I made.

 Smaller piece I completed with the same warp I used in  River , but with magazine pages from a National Geographic I had.

Smaller piece I completed with the same warp I used in River, but with magazine pages from a National Geographic I had.

 Further work on  River  using the coiling technique I used on the sample.

Further work on River using the coiling technique I used on the sample.

I decided to use the desert book for a larger weaving that would be similar in concept to the smaller blond sample I created. I cut each desert page into quarter inch strips and placed them all in a large pile for my palette. Weaving the pages on the loom seemed like the next best step, shortening amount of time it would take me to hand weave everything together. It still took me over fifteen hours to complete further detail and density found in the piece's spine! 

 Detail shot of the further handwork I did after I wove the pages together. When I was starting to weave this piece together, there was a lot of political and emotional unrest regarding Syrian refugees and other immigrants from the Middle East. This, I believe, became fuel for me to finish the weaving.

Detail shot of the further handwork I did after I wove the pages together. When I was starting to weave this piece together, there was a lot of political and emotional unrest regarding Syrian refugees and other immigrants from the Middle East. This, I believe, became fuel for me to finish the weaving.

The desert book was published in 1962 and had a very western perspective on Middle Eastern and African culture. I sorted through every page and read the captions and articles about different deserts all over the world, puzzled over some of the ways the journalist chose to frame his subjects. I remember visiting my family and talking with my younger cousin about his schooling here in the U.S. He told me how unsatisfying history class is, that they learn western history and he is used to learning eastern history. He is frustrated by the lack of scope in his education. Reading the desert book, I was reminded of my own western education, and felt the rift between my family's culture and my own American perspective and lifestyle. I think River is one of the more emotional pieces I've made, beginning to explore my identity as a first generation Arab-American. It is a complex feeling, knowing that there is a history in my blood that I have not yet touched. More to come soon.