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Artists without Borders: Reflections on Art and Place at the Museum of Wisconsin Art | By Jennifer Turner

West Bend, WI – Exhibition open — Artists without borders: Reflections on art and place at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.
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Artists without Borders: Reflections on Art and Place features nine artists with deep roots abroad. Their work reflects the global perspectives and diverse influences of the multicultural artist. The exhibition is a testament to the diversity—of backgrounds, interests, and styles—that is representative of Wisconsin art today.

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Borders are a recurrent theme. Neither inherently good nor bad, borders are opportunities for hospitality as well as exclusion. Borders shown on maps offer a topographic definition of place in expressive, abstract lines; understanding place and its multitude of meanings is an entirely different matter.

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Some artists find a productive tension in cultural difference, including the disorientation of being immersed in a foreign language and unfamiliar practices. Other artists adapt to their life in America the techniques and textures of their native cultures, such as traditional tilework patterns and hand-rolled paper coils. Important landmarks are a perennial inspiration, from the grandeur of a legendary mountain range to the thronelike presence of a gilt barber chair.

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Every work is revelatory of the artist’s identity. Self-portraits, in particular, show the artist as they wish to be seen. The use of masks to obscure identity yields a paradoxical sort of self-portraiture by both revealing and concealing the subject. It is a reminder that the face we publicly present may be deceptive—especially for code-switching, culture-straddling artists.

“Artists without Borders” features nine artists with deep roots abroad. Their work reflects the global perspectives and diverse influences of the multicultural artist. This exhibition is a testament to diversity—of backgrounds, interests, and styles—that is representative of Wisconsin art today.

 

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 On View at two locations:

MOWA in West Bend open through July 3, 2021.  MOWA | DTN opens May 12

Seven of the nine artists represented are first-generation immigrants born outside the US who draw artistic influence from their country of origin:

Faisal Abdu’allah (United Kingdom) in his investigation of Afro-British social consciousness and Muslim identity.

Nina Ghanbarzadeh (Iran) in her celebration of the beauty of the Persian alphabet.

Francisco X. Mora (Mexico) with a suite of self-portraits in the tradition of Mexican surrealism.

Nirmal Raja (India) in her use of domestic objects common in an Indian household.

Jason Yi (South Korea) in his sculptural interpretations of South Korean landscapes and legends.

Rina Yoon (South Korea) in her adoption of Korean printing and paper-making techniques.

Xiaohong Zhang (China), who melds traditional Chinese painting with Western digital art.

The two remaining artists were born in the heartland of America but maintain close ties to their cultural roots.

David Najib Kasir’s paintings use Arabic motifs to depict Syrian refugees and images derived from the current war-torn state of his mother’s homeland.

Gabrielle Tesfaye’s films delve into the history of Ethiopia, and her larger-than-life puppets are inspired by the folk arts of Southeast Asia.

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