09/2004
Ann N. Sgarlata
Curator

10/2002
O. Abusitta
Curator

2004
Sally Farhat
LebWorld


"There is an incredible renaissance in Lebanon after the war; creativity is incredible over there." Sally Farhat

When Lebanese American artist Denise Nassar found out that two airplanes hit the two buildings she lived next to for a decade, she started throwing dirt.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Nassar, who now lives in Brooklyn, NewYork, put a canvas up in her backyard and began expressing herself with the earth. When she finished, she added some strokes of red oil paint. "I was throwing on the canvas, I was angry," Ms. Nassar says. 9-11 brought back my experience in Lebanon during the war like an injection, in one shot. It took me years to heal from the war -- which violence I had experienced for six years including the Israeli invasion of Lebanon."

"9-11 brought back the shot. All Americans were not familiar with the implications and the roots of the tragedy. We were too wise. We [Lebanese]have lived through this."

Now, that painting - called "September 11, 2001" - is on display along with 17 other oil paintings at SPIN in her Bay Ridge neighborhood. It is her first solo exhibition. "You need to express yourself," Ms. Nassar says. A room in her house contains boxes of photographs of the World Trade Center, taken when she lived three blocks away in the early 1990s.

Ms. Nassar, 47, isn't just a painter on her way to stardom. She's also an accomplished photographer and is planning a solo show in photography on Beirut with a special theme to be announced soon. Most of her prized photos were taken in Beirut.

LebWorld caught up with Ms. Nassar this week to discuss her artwork display, life as a Lebanese American and of course, as an artist.

LW: So this is your first solo show.

Nassar: I have been in group shows of course, but this is my first solo, yes. I did 25 pieces in less than a year. It is not normal to do 25 paintings and hide them at home. Then you are really sick.

LW: When did you start painting?

Nassar: Well, I was always creative. I was taking photos as I was traveling but never took photography seriously. Then I started working in advertising as a creative writer for an international ad agency in Lebanon and was involved with creative stuff. Then I came to America in 1978, the first time, and stayed till 1982, one week before the Israeli invasion.

My father was sick. I stayed until January 1985. In 1991, I was working in the Interior Design field and wasn't happy with my job. So I'd go to the Art Students League at night and paint. Every time I finished a painting, a student or teacher would ask, 'Are you a textile designer?'

I did it and hung them in my apartment. Then I totally forgot about it and started thinking about my photography much more. Then I was losing my apartment in the West Village in 2001. I was under such high pressure, I said, I am either going to paint or I am going to have a stroke.

LW: How did you start photography?

Nassar: When I moved to Tribeca in 1988 I had a beautiful apartment overlooking the Hudson River. The architecture there is beautiful, mainly post-modernist, and Tribeca was still a secret. My friends thought that I was crazy to live down there because it was too isolated. I took tons of photos of the World Trade Center. I have them in boxes.

LW: Are you trying to make a political statement with your work?

Nassar: I don't use my paintings as a tool. But they are a means for me to express myself and to communicate with the public. When I paint, I don't know what is going to come out.

LW: How is art perceived in Lebanon?

Nassar: There is a small but incredible artistic community in Lebanon. There are all kinds of artists, you see them in the theater, at concerts, and it is a very small but reachable community. The country has been through a war and it is still not a normal country. You need some sort of normalcy for art to thrive. There is an incredible renaissance in Lebanon after the war; creativity is incredible over there.

LW: Do you have any advice for a young Lebanese American artist?

Nassar: Do what you want to do, express yourself, and don't be afraid to draw or paint or do whatever comes across your mind. Do it and don't think too much about it. If you think too much about something, it will kill it. Be yourself and do what you want to do. Don't let anybody stop you.

LW: What do you miss the most about Lebanon?

Nassar: I miss the magic. I miss the spontaneity and that anything is possible at any time. People are very magical. Even with no phone, no electricity, words go across. Messages go through, things happen and people get together. The joie de vivre is unparalleled. On Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Nassar, who now lives in Brooklyn, NewYork, put a canvas up in her backyard and began expressing herself with the earth. When she finished, she added some strokes of red oil paint. "I was throwing on the canvas, I was angry," Ms. Nassar says. 9-11 brought back my experience in Lebanon during the war like an injection, in one shot. It took me years to heal from the war -- which violence I had experienced for six years including the Israeli invasion of Lebanon." "9-11 brought back the shot. All Americans were not familiar with the implications and the roots of the tragedy. We were too wise. We [Lebanese]have lived through this." Now, that painting - called "September 11, 2001" - is on display along with 17 other oil paintings at SPIN in her Bay Ridge neighborhood. It is her first solo exhibition. "You need to express yourself," Ms. Nassar says. A room in her house contains boxes of photographs of the World Trade Center, taken when she lived three blocks away in the early 1990s. Ms. Nassar, 47, isn't just a painter on her way to stardom. She's also an accomplished photographer and is planning a solo show in photography on Beirut with a special theme to be announced soon. Most of her prized photos were taken in Beirut. LebWorld caught up with Ms. Nassar this week to discuss her artwork display, life as a Lebanese American and of course, as an artist. LW: So this is your first solo show. Nassar: I have been in group shows of course, but this is my first solo, yes. I did 25 pieces in less than a year. It is not normal to do 25 paintings and hide them at home. Then you are really sick. LW: When did you start painting? Nassar: Well, I was always creative. I was taking photos as I was traveling but never took photography seriously. Then I started working in advertising as a creative writer for an international ad agency in Lebanon and was involved with creative stuff. Then I came to America in 1978, the first time, and stayed till 1982, one week before the Israeli invasion. My father was sick. I stayed until January 1985. In 1991, I was working in the Interior Design field and wasn't happy with my job. So I'd go to the Art Students League at night and paint. Every time I finished a painting, a student or teacher would ask, 'Are you a textile designer?' I did it and hung them in my apartment. Then I totally forgot about it and started thinking about my photography much more. Then I was losing my apartment in the West Village in 2001. I was under such high pressure, I said, I am either going to paint or I am going to have a stroke. LW: How did you start photography? Nassar: When I moved to Tribeca in 1988 I had a beautiful apartment overlooking the Hudson River. The architecture there is beautiful, mainly post-modernist, and Tribeca was still a secret. My friends thought that I was crazy to live down there because it was too isolated. I took tons of photos of the World Trade Center. I have them in boxes. LW: Are you trying to make a political statement with your work? Nassar: I don't use my paintings as a tool. But they are a means for me to express myself and to communicate with the public. When I paint, I don't know what is going to come out. LW: How is art perceived in Lebanon? Nassar: There is a small but incredible artistic community in Lebanon. There are all kinds of artists, you see them in the theater, at concerts, and it is a very small but reachable community. The country has been through a war and it is still not a normal country. You need some sort of normalcy for art to thrive. There is an incredible renaissance in Lebanon after the war; creativity is incredible over there. LW: Do you have any advice for a young Lebanese American artist? Nassar: Do what you want to do, express yourself, and don't be afraid to draw or paint or do whatever comes across your mind. Do it and don't think too much about it. If you think too much about something, it will kill it. Be yourself and do what you want to do. Don't let anybody stop you. LW: What do you miss the most about Lebanon? Nassar: I miss the magic. I miss the spontaneity and that anything is possible at any time. People are very magical. Even with no phone, no electricity, words go across. Messages go through, things happen and people get together. The joie de vivre is unparalleled.

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