Syria, UAE
Art & PhotographyThe Arts

The Eyes Have It

In a stare-down with any painting by Mohannad Orabi, the painting will win, wonderfully. The Syrian painter’s gift is to create witnesses whose larger and brighter-than-life presences capture viewers with their rapt intensity–and pass on hope.

Children are Orabi’s prime subject, but the style and impact of their gazes has evolved. In early canvases, lone cartoonish figures stare out of impenetrably black, smudged eyes as if from a separate, inaccessible world. Recently, as Orabi experienced the bittersweet joys of starting a family as his country suffered, the characters populating his canvases have become graver and more lifelike, with wide eyes starkly defined by gleams of light.

The gleam, he says, is the light of hope for the future; the darkness gritting the canvas is Syrian soil. And though shadows often dominate the frames, the energy of the witnesses’ outward gaze steadfastly holds the viewer’s like a lifeline. Orabi now lives in Cairo, where he is preparing for an upcoming solo show in Dubai.

For more info – Ayyam’s website

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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