“Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory” interweaves Christian, Jewish, and Muslim poetry and spiritual texts from the medieval period of the Convivencia in Spain with texts of contemporary Middle Eastern poets, particularly Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli, in the context of my Unweavings fiber art pieces. Through research into the medieval period and into the wealth of contemporary Middle Eastern poetry, I found the themes that constitute the project – the poetry of spiritual love, often couched in the language of secular love, the poetry of exile, poetry of nostalgia for Andalusia, poetry referencing Old and New Testament texts, and the Qu’ran, and poetry speaking of mistrust of enemies, yearning for reconciliation. The project consists of 18 pieces, completed between 2011-2015.
The catalyst for “Birds of Longing” was the shocking events of September 11, 2001. In the years after September 11th, as many Muslims were demonized, I felt the urgent necessity, as an artist, to contribute to a better understanding among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. As the situation in the Middle East spirals downward, and xenophobia is encouraged in our own country, I believe it is all the more important to encourage continuing interfaith/multicultural conversation.
An audio component is integral to the project, consisting of readings in English, Arabic, and Hebrew of portions of the poems and spiritual texts contained in the Unweavings. The languages are interwoven in a specially-arranged soundscape by contemporary composer Daniel Wohl. Using prepared iPods, viewers are able to aurally as well as visually experience the poetry relating to specific pieces as they move around the exhibit.
My hope for the project is that its visual and auditory impact will make vivid for viewers the connections among the Abrahamic religions and stimulate thought about their shared emotional, aesthetic, spiritual and thematic content.
“Birds of Longing” travels from 2013- 2022 to various interfaith venues in California, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., Minnesota, North Carolina, Arizona, and Vancouver.
Several grants helped support this project. A grant from the Center for the Arts, Religion & Education (Berkeley, CA) supported the creation of the work and the inaugural exhibit in their Doug Adams Gallery. The CARE grant also supported creation of the soundscape that accompanies the exhibit. A supplemental grant supported the creation of an interpretive dance performance by Carla De Sola and Omega West accompanying the opening of the exhibit. A similar performance by Omega East accompanied the opening reception of the exhibit at Union Theological Seminary (NYC).
Doug Adams Gallery at the Bade Museum, Berkeley, CA (September 11-December 13)
Tull Hall Gallery, Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA (January-March)
The Loggia Gallery, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL (May 1-July 31)
Pioneer Room Gallery, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, PA (October 13-November 26)
The Patio Gallery, Jewish Community Center, Louisville, KY (January 11-February 24)
James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY (April 6-May 15)
Erdman Art Gallery, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ (Sept. 1-October 30)
Isaacs Gallery, Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael, CA (December 15, 2015-March 7, 2016)
Teitelbaum Family Center for the Arts, Addison Penzak JCC of Silicon Valley, Los Gatos, CA (March 15–May 15)
Nau-Gibson Concourse, Gibson Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA (October 15-November 15)
Interchurch Art Gallery, Indianapolis Interchurch Center, Indianapolis, IN (January)
Art Gallery, Arthur M. Glick Jewish Community Center, Indianapolis, IN (February)
Deutser Art Gallery, Evelyn Rubinstein Jewish Community Center, Houston, TX (April- May)
Dadian Gallery, Luce Center for the Arts and Religion, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC (September-October)
Benedicta Arts Center, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, St. Joseph, MN (August-October)
Interfaith Peace Conference, United Methodist Church, Lake Junaluska, NC (Nov. 21-24)
Charter Oak Cultural Center, Hartford, CT (September)
“Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory,” Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA (Jan.-Feb. 2022) (solo exhibition)
Fr. Michael E. Komechak, O.S.B. Gallery, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL (Oct. 5, 2020-Jan. 18, 2021) (virtual exhibition)
The Poetry Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (February-August 2020) (actual and virtual exhibitions)