Bridging Middle Eastern And Western Cultures Through Art
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Bridging Middle Eastern And Western Cultures Through Art

The nomadic Caravan exhibit “The Bridge” has stationed at St. Paul’s Chapel, showing the work of 47 Arab, Persian and Jewish contemporary artists from 15 countries. Their art addresses the theme of “what bridges us” to each other.

The goal of “The Bridge” is to assemble Middle Eastern and Western artists to use their art for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. Indeed, it is a feat; it is uncommon for artworks by Arab and Jewish and Israeli artists to hang together at one exhibition. “The Bridge” was curated by Lilianne Milgrom, Dr Reda Abdel Rahman, and Caravan founder, Reverend Paul-Gordon Chandler. Caravan is an international and interreligious peacebuilding arts non-profit that originated in 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.

The Egyptian consulate in New York hosted the show’s opening reception. In his welcoming remarks the Egyptian Consul General Ahmed Farouk stated that “art is a universal language of communication.” He went on to note that “both art and religion give life satisfaction and tranquility.”

Farouk added, “Terrorism has no religion or nationality,” connecting the exhibit with its location so close to Ground Zero, the church filled with mementos from the day.

Participating artists’ approaches to the theme ranged from literal to metaphorical.

Hisham Abdallah, an Egyptian artist, contributed an abstract painting called “Three on a Bridge.” He wrote, “It is a bridge that unites all peoples and religions. We are all walking on that bridge to reach the same goal. Our path is one and the same.”

Parisian artist Valerie Rauchbach used volcanic sand applied to a black canvas to display a quote (translated into French) from Maimonides that discusses tolerance. “When I work with black sand, the light illuminates it like a memory that is slowly surfacing and brought out of the darkness,” she wrote in her statement.

Indian-American Jewish artist Siona Benjamin is represented by her piece, “Bridging Pardes,” a bright orange and gold mixed media painting featuring a character who could be Miriam creating a bridge over a map with her leaping body as well as a “fereshteh,” or a Persian angel.

According to Caravan’s website, 40% of the proceeds garnered from sales of artwork and from catalogues will go to an Egyptian charity named Educate Me.

“The Bridge” opened in Paris in February 2015 at the Church of St. Germain des Pres and over the course of 18 months is traveling around Europe, Egypt and throughout the United States. The majority of spots on the exhibition tour are churches, as the organizers felt the exhibit would get more traffic. After New York City, “The Bridge” will end its run spending nearly the entire month of September in Wyoming, the state that organizers have deemed the most anti-Arab in the country.

“The Bridge”runs through February 28th at St. Paul’s Chapel, 209 Broadway, New York City.

Caroline Lagnado writes about culture.

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