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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bissan Rafe

Bissan Rafe--a work in progress.                
Maoja, The Surge, 2014. Bissan Rafe,
one of her more recent works.
I'm always leery in writing about young artists. As I've explained before, I consider them, their art, and their careers to be "works in progress," who are best put off until they've matured. How do I define young artists? Well, first of all the must be younger than I am, though I must confess, I've covered any number of artists in that category. I'm especially reluctant to write about artists young enough to be my son or daughter, though I've made a few exceptions there too. Bissan Rafe, however is really young, born in 1986, she's not yet thirty. That makes her young enough to almost be my granddaughter. Moreover, she and her art are very much a "work in progress." But, having said that, despite her precocious age, I'm impressed by her progress, not to mention her potential. In short, I like her work. Though born and raised near Houston, Texas, this young lady has lived, worked, and exhibited all over the world. Her studio is currently in the Netherlands, but she's also spent considerable time in Japan, Italy, Portugal, Germany, England, and Palestine.
The cover Bissan Rafe designed for her album of Japanese music.
The Stellar Abyss, 2010, Bissan Rafe
It was the Palestinian connection which first caught my eye, bringing her more than a cursory glance. I don't think I've ever written about a Palestinian artist before. And though thoroughly American, she seems to identify with the Palestinian cause to the point of being termed a hyphenated "American-Palestinian" painter. And while she's probably best known for her paintings sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle for a homeland, Rafe is also an accomplished fictional writer, song writer, poet, designer, animator, and filmmaker. She also teaches art classes. Often Ms. Rafe mixes her talents, as seen in her album cover for Hypnotic (above). Her painting, The Stellar Abyss (left) from 2010, she has used to illustrate the work of the Palestinian writer, Jason Forbus (A Child Far Away). It's far and away my favorite of all her paintings.

Fishbone Calcium, Bissan Rafe
Gaza, Bissan Rafe

At first glance several of Rafe's paintings appear to fall into the realm of Abstract Expressionism; but just when you think you have her pegged, a new vision of objective content emerge. Study the image, Gaza (above, right). Search for the eyes peering out from just beneath the helmet. A masked Palestinian fighter emerges, the tip of his nose and lower face covered against the dust and dirt of combat (or, perhaps, to protect his identity). Rafe's Palestina I (below left) and Palestina II (below, right) delve into the civilian presence in the continuing conflict, specifically the plight of the wives, widows, and orphans who daily find themselves living on the brink of survival in a war zone.

Palestina I, Bissan Rafe
Palestina II, Bissan Rafe
Palestina, Bissan Rafe


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