Flight: Explorations in Movement, Migration, and Freedom
April 2 – June 26, 2016
Reception: April 2, 2016, 6 – 8 PM
In the canon of dreamscapes, that of subconsciously taking flight is a collective experience that tops the list. Even for those of us with foggy morning memories, dreams of flight are some of the most lucid, those in which we feel most present, whether terrified or exhilarated in the moment. While we live with the technology to span oceans in hours and are accustomed to the hum of planes soaring overhead, the concept of flight maintains an aura of wondrous and sometimes unsettling impossibility. The word itself, however, carries connotations both vast and contradictory. The concept of flight almost automatically conjures positive associations with the ideals of freedom and independence, but it is also inherently connected to movement in unwelcome directions, to forced migrations, loss, and distance.
West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Park will host a collaborative, gallery-wide juried exhibition of artworks by gallery artists, local students, and Syrian artists interpreting the concept of “Flight” as it relates to ideas of freedom of expression, pilgrimage, and spontaneous exploration, opening April 2nd, 2016. West Branch has pondered the idea of an exhibition centered around the theme of birds for years now (who doesn’t want to put a bird on it?), but the idea quickly morphed into an open ended meditation on the concept of flight… which then swiftly brought our thoughts more somberly to the ongoing migrant crisis and the horrific consequences of civil war that have become tragically standard front-page news. In the context of this exhibition, the consideration of flight can translate as simply as birds as the subject matter or more broadly into an abstract painter’s representation of joyous movement, of airborne thought. Flight could also be concerned with the migration of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. There is no one valid interpretation.
In the midst of incessant divisive media surrounding stateside political dramas, we’re experiencing an overwhelmingly positive coming together of artists and online-based nonprofit organizations to make this exhibition a reality and to help the people suffering through the humanitarian crisis in Syria in what small way we are able. We have partnered with Khaled Youssef, a Syrian doctor, photographer, and co-founder of the not-for-profit, politically unaffiliated organizations Creative Havens: Syrian Artists and Their Studios and Syria Art – Syrian Artists, now residing in Nice, France, to bring a diverse selection of paintings, film, photography, and printed works from notable contemporary Syrian artists to the exhibition. Natasha Hamarneh-Hall, founder of the D.C. nonprofit, Art in Exile, has also been instrumental in exposing us to the incredible efforts of Syrian artists now pursuing their creative practices on U.S. soil, all in the face of unimaginably great personal hardship. We are eternally grateful and humbled by their willingness to participate and by their sheer, genuine enthusiasm.
Inspired by the efforts of these individuals, all of those involved with their organizations, and their tireless efforts to create platforms through which Syrian artists can share their stories, West Branch Gallery will donate 100% of our commission from the sales of Syrian artwork and a portion of all other sales of works featured in the exhibition to the Red Cross in Syria and Yalla! Pour les Enfants, a French national organization providing schooling for refugee children in Lebanon. These organizations come highly recommended and have been vetted by the Syrian artists and organizations we are collaborating with to ensure that they are doing honest, hard work to help refugees both in and out of Syria. A number of gallery and Syrian artists will also generously donate a portion of their commissions to these efforts.
In the coming weeks, we will continue to share the stories behind Khaled and Natasha’s creative endeavors and the charity organizations we have chosen to support, as well as more about the Syrian artists who have thrilled and humbled us with their decisions to participate in this exhibition, including Khaled Akil and Tammam Azzam. Stay tuned!