Self portraits

Self portraits

Monday, May 23, 2016

Awesome Foundation Grant & "Made Here" Exhibition - Dwelling

Last year, I met an amazing artist, an elderly gentleman named Hassan Nor (goes by Nor), who draws his memories from Jubaland, Somalia, before the war; when life was peaceful, and food plentiful.

The artist's daughter was the catalyst for our meeting. Earlier, she had given some of her father's drawings to her neighbor, whom she met at Neighborhood Night Out. When the neighbor was preparing to travel out of the country for a year, he reached out to me on FB -- where he knew me only through my art.

The neighbor brought some of Nor's drawings over to my studio, and I was blown away by the artworks, which depicted nomadic and village life back home, in Jubaland and Kismaayo, where Nor was a pastoralist, a tailor, a farmer; also, there were drawings of the artist's life here in Minneapolis, where he has lived for 14 years.
Drawing by Nor
Detail of drawing by Nor
Drawing of Wedding, by Nor
After meeting with his daughter, I met with Nor, and since have had several opportunities to chat with him. His daughter, Farhio, interprets for us. I learned that Nor had been drawing his whole life, since age 19 (he's now 76); he is self-taught; he has become interested in showing and selling his art. Since last fall, I have searched for opportunities for him -- written some applications for exhibitions, and reached out to some curators who had helped me in the past, on his behalf. 

As I received some nibbles of interest, I began to understand that some funds would be needed to frame his work, which were primarily works on paper and neon cardboard, and prepare it for exhibition. I did not have the funds to assist with this, and didn't quite know where to turn.

Late in 2015, I heard of the Awesome Foundation, and wrote a grant for Nor to move his art forward. The Awesome trustees loved his work, and appreciated that I wrote the grant specifically to benefit another deserving artist, rather than for myself. When the foundation contacted me in January with an award, I was thrilled for the support and encouragement this would bring to Nor's ambitions and aspirations. The grant was just what was needed to frame the work, purchase art materials, bring his art to exhibition, and make it more archival. A small amount of money remained, which provided honorariums to the artist and interpreter (what we call 'food money').

The interest in Nor's work seemed to propel this artist into new realms. Each time we met, he showed me more drawings, and, before my eyes, they grew in complexity -- both the depth of the pictorial elements, and the detailed observations and nuances in his storytelling. With assistance from the grant, I was able to bring him new kinds of papers and markers to experiment with, frame artworks, buy easels; but the other gift that developed was the dialog between us, often in the common language of art.

As Paul Wellstone once said, "We all do better when we all do better." -- this is especially true for artists, and one reason I enjoy collaboration. Our application to Made Here, Represent was created after an idea of Malidoma Patrice Soma, "Being born into this world in a particular place is like having the signature of that place stamped upon you." - from the Healing Wisdom of Africa. Our showcase, Dwelling, is rich with pictorial narratives of home and homeland; along with memories, dreams, and illusions of the places we call home. 

I'm honored to show my work with Nor downtown, in a place of high visibility, and for the premier exhibition for this exceptional artist. Dwelling will be on view both day and (lit up at) night, installed in a window and viewed from the street, in a building on the corner of 8th and Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN.  Here is the link to watch for more information, progress, and media coverage on the exhibit:

Olga Viso, Walker Art Center director, responded to Nor's work as "powerful and enchanting."

Please join us for the public launch of Dwelling on June 2nd, from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m at Marin Restaurant, 901 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN.
The exhibit will remain up all summer, until 29 September.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Three Eleven Sixteen

This painting is for my friends at Somali Health Solutions -

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ten Ten Fifteen -

We saw the exhibition of two young mentees to Mohamud Mumin at MCAD. (
Muna Ahmed made photos which show the darker side of Cedar Riverside apartments -- desolate, isolated and lonely. Not my view, I argued; but, that might be the difference between visiting during the day for work, and living in these apartments. A friend, Nimco, lived there, and, concerned for her daughters' safety, moved out, saying there were scary men in the stairwells at night. The sad news last week of a young girl being raped in the hallway along with Muna's photos lead me to understand a different view, an "insider" view, of the high-rises -- like the one called simply "Cedar," -- and, maybe also a little insight into my own naïveté.

The photos and video by Khadijah Charif were made back in Kenya and Ethiopia, and, in contrast to those made here in Mpls, show lively, cheerful camaraderie  -- children playing, everyone healthy and out in nature, families together, celebrating. The video, shot on a relative's farm - milking goats, bringing water up from the well -- illustrates the sweet nostalgia of daily life I've heard much about from the elders.

Also in the exhibit -  the Dugsi children's artworks -- and, especially touching at the opening to see the big sister signing to her little brother, and children playing in the hallways at MCAD.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hey, Aren't You Somebody?

At Hennepin Hustory Museum until September 13th - Don't miss it!

Portrait installation at "Hey, Aren't You Somebody?" top row, l to r ~ Salah, Bobo, Jenny, Pete, Mune; middle row ~ Bill, Osman, Sarah, Lu, Frank; (dog portraits) bottom row ~ Kari, Abdiweli, Diane
The museum curator is an incurable ailurophile;
from the gallery entrance ~ front center - portrait of Frank; l - portraits by Pam; r - weavings by Ubah and Nura

Portraits and weavings installed in "Hey, Aren't You Somebody?" at Hennepin History Museum

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Somali Independence Day 2015

Lake Street, Minneapolis
June 13, 2015

I asked this young girl, " Ma nabad baa?"  and she said, "Take my picture!"

Monday, March 9, 2015

Photos from International Women's Day ~ Minneapolis, MN ~ March 8, 2015

Photo by Ahmed Laarri
Photo by Puntland Post

Photos from International Women's Day event at Safari Restaurant and Event Center in Minneapolis