29 Sep

Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Exhibit eyes peace in Mideast – The Columbian

Artist Kanaan Kanaan wishes he could go back in time, he said, to a time when the Middle East was not beset by “lunatics running around with guns,” to a time when even occupation and low-level background conflict felt, at least to a child, something like peace.

“I completely disown this period in history,” said Kanaan, who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan.

That doesn’t sound like a picnic, but Kanaan said he looks back on it fondly when compared to the chaos and terror sweeping through parts of the Middle East today.

“It’s completely insane, and for the past couple of years I’ve really been looking back to a time when people could enjoy their lives, enjoy their children — a time when they really had peace of mind,” Kanaan said. “They were not perfect times, but they were peaceful.”

Peaceful enough for young Kanaan to spend chunks of his youth dreaming and doodling. He went on to study at the College of Fine Arts at Baghdad University before immigrating to the U.S. in 1994. He was an adjunct professor in Portland State University’s art department for eight years; he also advised foreign students and just this month launched his own American Culture and Language Institute, a business aimed at helping foreign students acclimate to U.S. society.

Here’s another way he’s trying to help: by curating an art show aimed at reviving the forgotten goodness and beauty — the humanity, he said — of the Middle East.

11 Sep


New art Exhibit

 Art Exhibit for Peace in Middle East

Opening reception: Friday, October 2, from 5-9 p.m.


Kanaan Kanaan, visual artist, will be joined by a variety of artists representing the Middle East through their heritage and/or type of art, including: Farouq Hassan, Haifa Al Habeeb, Nayera Majedi, Isaac Koval and Donn Jones


This month’s art exhibit, "Nostalgia," highlights the unity of those from the Middle East and celebrates their unique contributions to this vast global region. The exhibit opens with a reception as part of North Bank Artists’ monthly "First Friday" gallery festivities.

While considered to be a specific part of the world, the Middle East region encompasses many places that Middle Easterners have migrated to and shared their culture with: from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, to the Mediterranean Sea of North Africa, to the Persian Gulf. The image of such a broad swath of land creates a vision of shared ties – as well as divergences. Until the beginning of the 20th century Western colonial powers occupied the territory, having divided it into smaller, distinct countries that separated and splintered families and tribes. The Nationalist Movement changed this: Indigenous peoples resisted the occupation and country by country, drove out colonialists from the 1940s through the 1960s.

24 Jun

exhibit history

Solo shows, selected examples:
2013     “From the Atlantic to the Gulf,” (Vancouver, WA)
2012     “Ishlonak?,” (Vancouver, WA)
2011     “Graceful Names,” Littman Gallery (Portland, OR)
2009     ‘Image vs. Word,” Muslim Educational Trust (Tigard, OR)
2006     ‘Image vs. Word,” Littman Gallery (Portland, OR)
2006     “Words and letters,” Providence St. Vincent Medical Center (Portland, OR)
2002     “The American Berlin Wall,” NewWorld Gallery (Portland, OR)
1999     “Self Diagram,” Noury al-Kaledy Scholarship Foundation (Portland, OR)
1999     “Self Diagram,” Fine and Performing Arts Gallery, Portland State University
(Portland, OR)
1997     “Window for the Soul,” Hawthorne Arts Guild (Portland, OR)

Group shows, selected examples:

2010    “New Works Times Three,” North Bank Artists Gallery (Vancouver, WA)
2010    "Contact, Connect, Collaborate," Evanston Art Center (Chicago, IL)
2009    “Mosaic,” Cuentos Foundation, (Chicago, IL)
2009    “Art Beat,” Portland Community College, (Portland, OR)
2008    “Across the Divide,” Illinois State Museum (Springfield, IL)
2008    “Piece Process,” Pomegranate Gallery (New York, NY)
2007    “Piece Process,” Glenn & Viola Walters Art Center (Hillsboro, OR)
2006    “Kalimat,” ARC Gallery (Chicago, IL)
2006    “Peace and Justice,” Trinity Episcopal Church (Portland OR)
2005    “Common Ground,” Bilal Mosque (Beaverton, OR)
2005    “Common Ground,” Havurah Shalom (Portland, OR)
2004    “Wilderness Journey,” Jewish Community Center (Portland, OR)
2003    “Piece Process,” (Athens, GA)
2002    “salawat/tafilah,” ARC Gallery (Chicago, IL)

20 Jun


Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darweesh is known worldwide for his commitment to peace and role as an advocate and voice for the Palestinian people. Until his death in August 2008 Darweesh sought dialogue through his poetry as a means to achieve peace and was considered a “universal human being” for his efforts.

His poem, “Ahmad al Za’tar,” was published in the 1960s and represented Palestinians through the character of “Ahmad” – their longing for a homeland, their lives as far-flung refugees splintered from their families, their plight in Palestine as they lived under occupation. When Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife put the poem’s words to music in 1983, “Ahmad al Za’tar” was quickly embraced as an anthem for Palestinians across the globe, and Darweesh was catapulted to international acclaim.

Kanaan Kanaan is an award-winning Palestinian artist who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Amman, Jordan. Now living in Portland, Kanaan garners inspiration for his work from his culture’s rich history. “Ahmad al Za’tar” struck a chord in him when he visited Lebanon in 1993, still reeling after the Israeli invasion of 1982 and the massacres at Sabrah and Shatelah.

“Dialogue” pays homage to Darweesh and his use of poetry to promote messages of universality and social justice. Poetry is an integral part of Arab culture, in both language and art. In “Dialogue,” Kanaan weaves Darweesh’s poetry into paintings of landscapes representing Kanaan’s memories – of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – as a child and young adult. “As painful as it is, the words of Darweesh have offered Palestinians strength and courage,” says Kanaan. “They have kept our souls alive.

This artwork honors humanity, Darweesh and the continued need for dialogue to better understand one another, to reach out using peaceful means. This is what I want to share.


19 Jun

past exhibits

Sixteen solo shows, selected examples:

19 Jun

April 2010

“Dialogue,” a multi-media art exhibit

North Bank Artists Gallery
1005 Main Street
Vancouver, WA 98660

Show: April 2-May 1, 2010
Opening reception: Friday, April 2 – 5-9 p.m.
Regular gallery hours: 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tuesday- Saturday

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