July, 1996

Samia A. Halaby

Samia A. Halaby was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, in 1936. In 1948, Israeli aggression forced her family’s emigration to Beirut, and in 1951 the family settled in Cincinnati. Thus, her higher education took place in Midwestern Universities. After graduate school, she taught for eighteen years, the last ten of which were at the Yale School of Art. In addition to teaching, Halaby was often invited to lecture at other universities. Her record includes solo and group exhibitions in private and museum venues as well as the performance of her electronic art both here and abroad. Among the museums which own her painting are the Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Institute Du Monde Arab in Paris.

Halaby makes analytically abstract paintings which reflect the cacophony of present reality. This work first developed in isolation along complex geometric lines. Afterwards, international traditions such as Cubism and Constructivism as well as such American painters as Stuart Davis, Mark Tobey, and Jackson Pollock asserted their influence. Themes in her work narrate the motion and speed of our environment. They help us to understand the signals of pleasure and danger of a city or the complexities of modern information. For example one painting titled "One Yard Pas The Shingle Factory" alludes to the jangle of manufacture while it pays homage to Marcel Duchamp. In her recent abstraction inspiration is derived from soft natural form such as trees, the effects of wind on groups, or the motion of large crowds of people. In “Green Flamenco” once can sense perhaps a crowd, or wind rustling tree leaves, or possibly things floating on the surface of a lake in the forest.

Halaby works with oil on canvas as much as with drawing media on paper. As a colorist, she still uses oil when she seeks precision in color relationships, but often utilizes acrylics in her assemblage as it permits a more impulsive attitude and less rigorous demands on cutting and stitching canvas after it has been painted.

Due to her persuasion that art must utilize the most advanced technologies available, she began exploring digital and electronic media in the mid 80’s after years of dreaming of it. In the end, she wrote a program which she uses to do live performance of abstract paintings in collaboration with musicians. Called Kinetic Painting, this program transforms the computer’s keyboard into a painting piano creating shapes that expand, break, have variable speed, and rhythm.

Samia Halaby has written many essays on art and occasionally writes about her own work. After interviewing 46 Palestinian artists, she published a book titled “Liberation Art of Palestine.”

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© Copyright, Samia A. Halaby, 1998, All rights reserved. To request permission to reproduce any part of these words or pictures CLICK HERE.

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