ACS held a two-day, pop up art exhibit for its annual International Baccalaureate (IB) Visual Art Exhibition in a gallery space of the Beirut Jewelry Souks. For the past six years, Solidere has generously permitted ACS to hold the annual exhibit in the downtown Souks.
The March 16-17 art show exhibited more than 80 pieces by ten ACS seniors pursuing the IB Visual Arts Diploma. IB Art teacher Cailin O’Connor helped oversee the show’s curating process, making sure to incorporate features into the exhibit that she had learned from her previous profession as an art gallery curator in the states.
The professionalism of the show was visible at every level, from the quality of the students’ artwork to the depth of the artist statements and the wall text featuring the names and themes of artist sections. The exhibition is the culmination of a two-year effort by students to fulfill the prerequisite of the IB Visual Art Diploma that requires participants to present their work in a public space. Each student picked a topic to drive the focus of their work. This year’s topics included “Freedom of Expression,” “Feminism,” “Food,” “Fairy Tales,” “Conflicts,” “Getting Closer,” “Japan,” and more.
The student artwork addressed a variety of issues that reflect the cultural experience and socio-political context of the world in which they live. Among the many ideas expressed, a few seemed to be echoed in a number of the student pieces. Fantasy vs. reality and social pressures placed on women were two repeating themes. “There is an energy exchange that happens in the studio among the group,” said O’Connor. “They’re a very tight cohort and they go through a two year program together. They share ideas and help each other.”
Luna Akil framed her work around the thematic area of “Freedom of Expression.” “The main issues that are portrayed in my work are feminism, body image and animal cruelty because I’m vegan myself,” said Akil. “One of my paintings looks at what it would be like to be in an animal’s shoes by “hooking” a human face in the mouth so that the viewer can feel uncomfortable about something that is accepted in society.”
In Rayana Azar’s “Getting Closer” artist statement, she encourages viewers to take a deeper look at her work to assess the true significance of her images. “My work was mainly influenced by artists such as Parastou Forouhar and Kara Walker. Both artists use controversial meanings in a way where from a distance their works are aesthetically beautiful, but if you get closer to them both artists impose a completely new perspective of their work on the audience,” writes Azar. This is apparent in what seems to be a colorful and lighthearted piece of hers entitled “Small Peak.” Upon closer inspection, it is full of hopelessness and despair.
Head of School Greg MacGilpin attended the exhibit’s March 16th opening. “I am speculating here but every year in the IB art class, there is a different dynamic. It just so happens that this year it is comprised of all young women, and they’re taking on some societal issues … You can see their works are talking to each other. I think that comfort level with each other allows this to happen,” observed MacGilpin.
He found the art exhibit to be an ideal way to honor ACS student artists, as did Ms. O’Connor. “In the art world, for young and emerging artists, the most valuable experience is to have an exhibition,” said O’Connor. “It’s so special because many programs — even university programs —might not provide an opportunity to exhibit until the very end, if even that. But to have this cohesive group exhibition is really special.”