Saturday, May 28, 2016

New painting "What Plagues Us"

When I posted this latest painting on FB and Instagram, many people asked the meaning of the symbolism and the figure so I thought I'd share that here.

"What Plagues Us"
30 x 23"

The painting is not 100% finished; right now it is sitting in a closet so I can look at it with fresh eyes in a couple of days. Let's say it is 90% done.

The title comes from an idea I had about modern-day plagues. Not the Black Death and Locust plagues of Medieval and biblical times, but the ever-persistent, man-made plagues like intolerance, inequality, and injustice. I was moved by the story of Malala from Pakistan, the little girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she wanted to attend school. It led me to research the most dangerous countries in the world for women.

The painting depicts a woman wearing a "plague mask", a mask worn by doctors to ward off the plague when visiting patients. In her hand is a rat, synonymous with the bubonic plague.

In the background are the flags of Chad, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia; very dangerous countries for women for a variety of reasons. I could only fit six but obviously, there are more. I selected the ones that would best fit the design of the painting.

The girl with the raised fist is the ubiquitous image from the campaign,"Bring Our Girls Home", a reference to the Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped by Al-Shabab and most of whom are still missing.

Although the painting is not a religious painting, I used religious symbols of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism to show the intertwining of political and religious issues.

There are two words--strength in English and freedom in Arabic.

The other parts of the painting were included to support the design and composition more than the message.

I don't usually paint such overt messages, mainly because I am no expert on the issues and I am generally interested in depicting eveyday stories of people and neighborhoods in my life. This time, I decided to step out of my usual and try something a little different. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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