Walls of (Un)Fear
Cambridge, MA-Houston, TX

Mixed Media on Canvas
121.9 x 269 cm | 48 x 106 in each

The process in creating this triptych was entirely unique in that it involved a great deal of audience participation. The original impetus for the paintings was to adorn the lobby of the Loeb Drama Theater in Cambridge (MA) during their run of A.R.T's WE LIVE IN CAIRO musical. The idea was to spend 5 days in Cambridge to give the canvases enough “texture” and graffiti to evoke some of the qualities of the walls of Cairo during the early days of Egypt’s 2011 uprising, just enough to allow theater goers to react and add their own mark just as Egyptians did from 2011-2014.

Paint markers were set up in the lobby, and by the end of the play’s run, the canvases came alive with hundreds of varying centiments! 

The paintings remained in Cambridge for a number of months and finally exhibited at the official opening of the Harvard Art Lab (where the act of painting first commenced), before being sent back to me to Houston where I added finishing touches and brought the triptych to completion.

What I really love about these paintings is that, because they involve so many hands--hands that will probably never come together on a canvas again--they act as incredibly unique timecapsules. They are essentially impossible to replicate no matter how hard one might try.

Another thing I really like is the conversion of fiction and non-fiction in the paintings. Just as the musical itself incorporates fictional characters and their accounts into a non-fictional event, the paintings too bring the fictional world of the play into some of non-fictional graffiti from Cairo’s walls. Examples of this is the stencil of Fadwa (an often arrested activist in the play) is seen next to a stencil of Khaled Said, or the grand depiction of a martyred Amir Salib (a singer-songwriter-activist in the play) alongside “aiwa ya basha” and the pink camo that once adorned the walls of  the infamous Mohammed Mahmoud Street (aka “Eyes of Freedom Street”).

I also love how these canvases not only evoke Egyptian sentiments, but--through audience participation--evoke a number of U.S. sentiments as well. In the cacophony of graffiti you can spot things like “don't stand on the side”, “It's Capitalism that's the problem”, and “we need an uprising in the U.S”, as well as “be careful what you wish for”.