Anchorlight in Raleigh, NC presented a solo exhibition of new work by Alia El-Bermani. Through painting, drawing, and paper sculpture El-Bermani shared her current study of loss and resiliency. She allowed the grief experienced over the recent loss of her mother to flow into a more universal search for quiet meaning. The closing night of the exhibition, we were honored to perform a movement installation inspired by Alia’s work.
It was truly a unique experience to engage with each piece of art through a collaborative and intimate creation process with the artist herself. Alia walked us through each piece and shared the stage of grief that was expressed.
The dancers were given the task to embody the sensation of each emotion as the source of raw movement. Their task was to be experiential rather than decorative. Instead of telling the story of the painting, each dancer entered into it as a room, a time, and a place.
Alia and I scored the piece according to our chill bumps. We found resonant moments when the choreography could reveal a felt sense – where the subjective qualities described could transform into raw, direct experiencing of the body’s feeling within these specific experiences and memories. We wanted to allow expression to the emotions that were already inherently in the work and to make them visible in a way that was experienceable.
We reached to uncover the multiple, experiential layers within the metaphors and symbolism throughout the body of work. Unexpected symbols and meanings revealed themselves to Alia as she was creating these mixed media drawings, paintings and paper sculpture installation. We were as interested in it’s clear visual language as much as the layers and metaphors underneath, and saw the two as interchangeable.
At the final dress rehearsal, I experimented with exchanging one sense organ for another: the eyes for the ears such as when the movers began to speak without sound. I wanted to reveal the depth of these lived sensations behind Alia’s story. There could possibly be few moments more poignant to loss than to see without sound, to know something is there but you can’t translate it. We unlocked a space that isolates this moment of a pure desire to receive something that feels so out of reach.
Alia El-Bermani’s Artist Statement for Like Sound Through Water
With this exhibition, I set myself up for an impossible task. Representing the enormity of what remains when someone so important passes; Living grief while trying to analyze it, like a scientist or journalist, trying to record yet not impact the event. Impossible. Grief is a fog that has altered my perception. It’s slowed me, physically impeding movement, blurring my vision. It’s just vapor. It’s just thoughts. It’s just so thick. I grew up outside any standard belief system. This gives me both the obligation and freedom to create my own myths for what happens beyond. In our home, science was the closest thing we had to religion. And so to science I turn for comfort, for answers, for structure during what feels like a chasm of chaos. Like sound through water, only the lowest, most soulful frequencies persist. Deep within the ocean there is a floating channel of water that at just the right pressure and just the right temperature, sound travels further than anywhere else on earth. In this layer, whose boundaries act as a waveguide, the speed of sound is at its minimum, capable of traveling thousands of miles. Like the songs of baleen whales, I like to think this is where we hear our ancestors call. This is where I will hear her songs once again.
In memory of my mother: Dr. Eunice I. Bloomquist
Our deepest thanks to Slater Mapp for his compelling photography that captured the essence of this remarkable installation!
ABOUT ALIA EL-BERMANI: Artist, teacher and independent curator, Alia El-Bermani was raised in a small town just south of Boston, where she spent most of her childhood enjoying the outdoors and discovering the natural history of the south shore of Massachusetts. She received her BFA in 2000 from Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach CA. This talented figurative painter has had several solo exhibitions as well as her work featured in numerous group exhibitions across the country. Her paintings and drawings have been showcased in museums such as the Palm Springs Desert Museum in California, Customs House Museum in Tennessee, Anchorage Museum of History and Art in Alaska, West Valley Art Museum in Arizona, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto and the Greenville Museum of Art in North Carolina. In 2015 her painting Paper Wishes was acquired by the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (MEAM), in Barcelona, Spain for their permanent collection. She is also a seasoned instructor who has taught at both the college and workshop level. El-Bermani has been an honored guest lecturer at several universities including East Carolina University, Meredith College, Laguna College of Art and Design and Texas A&M University. She is a member of the Portrait Society of America as well as a co-founder of the important blog Women Painting Women. Several articles have been written on her work in such periodicals as American Art Collector, iArtistas, ArtSee, Art Week, The Independent, LA Weekly and the Savvy Painter Podcast. She currently works out of her studio in Raleigh, NC.
ABOUT ANCHORLIGHT: Anchorlight is a creative space, founded with the intent of fostering artists at varying stages of their development. Anchorlight provides a combination of artist studios, residency opportunities, and exhibition space. Through the establishment of an internal community of artists, designers, and craftspeople, Anchorlight encourages mentorship and the cross-pollination of knowledge and skills. In this way we strive to enhance the cultural environment of the surrounding community and our city as a whole.