Iraqi artists star in Powderhorn exhibit

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With the exhibit Voices in Art from Iraq, the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP) hopes to correct Americans’ misperceptions about Iraq. Moving beyond the daily news broadcasts of the war, beyond the images of the destruction and loss of life in a desert landscape half a world away, IARP wants Minnesotans to understand that Iraq is a country with a rich history, where people do many of the same things that we do.

And one of those things is to make art.

Voices in Art from Iraq is a vibrant exhibition comprising 35 paintings by more than a dozen Iraqi artists, opening Saturday at the Center for Independent Artists on Bloomington Avenue. The show is intended to illuminate the many voices of Iraqi people in relationship to their historical struggles and to build bridges of communication through arts and culture. The art will be situated in its cultural context though food, music, and informative talks by artist/curator Adnan Shati—a native Iraqi who teaches in the Minneapolis public schools.

Voices in Art from Iraq, an exhibit on display from September 27-October 4 at the Center for Independent Artists, 4137 Bloomington Ave. S., Minneapolis. Opening reception, with music and food: September 27, 5-8 p.m. Lecture by Adnan Shati (“The Culture and History of Iraq”), with music and food: September 28, 6 p.m. Lecture by Adnan Shati (“Iraq Today”), with music and food: October 4, 6 p.m.


Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi who for more than 25 years has split his time between the Twin Cities and his home country, initiated the process of creating the exhibit. Rasouli selected more than 100 works of art on a recent trip to Iraq and shipped the cache back to Minneapolis, where Shati made the final selection. In addition to being a member of IARP, Rasouli is also central to the Iraqi organization Muslim Peacemaker Teams. The exhibition artists will donate half the proceeds of any purchases to the Muslim Peacemaker Teams. Prices for the works will range from $75-$300.

Although most of the paintings have been conceived in a representational, western European style, Iraqis are the subjects of the work. In one painting, children sit before a stone wall; in another, a man travels on a boat down a shallow river amongst reeds. In two colorful, expressionistic paintings, Iraqis walk among palm trees and shop in an indoor market.

“We hope the art, in and of itself, will expand Twin Citians’ perception of Iraqi people,” says Kathy MacKay, director of IARP. “Too many of us in this country think of Iraqis as either suicide bombers or war victims. They are so much more than that.”

Mason Riddle writes on the visual arts, architecture and design. She has contributed to publications including Artforum, Metropolis, the Star Tribune, and the Pioneer Press. She is guest editor for the upcoming Public Art Review #39: Between Rural and Urban, which explores public art in the suburbs.