Artist Laura Stack talked with fellow Rosalux artist Hend Al-Mansour about the issues that motivate her work, artistic goals, and influences in our latest segment of Artist 2 Artist interviews.
How does your artwork reflect your experiences and perspective of the world?
My drawings and colors are influenced by Arabic aesthetics. It is the flavor that I carry from my original home and the color of my artistic skin. This includes Islamic design and architecture, Arabic calligraphy, and loud colors.
What issues motivate your work or motivate you to make art?
I get motivated to make art when I see art. Some artworks have a magical power of awakening my desire to make art. And when I make art, I find myself riding an intense feminist beast that wants to scream.
You have said that your art intends to critique and celebrate the Islamic culture you grew up in. Can you elaborate on this?
My work applauds geometric Arabic design by adopting its methods and basic structures while creating new motifs. It reinterprets Islamic architecture by mimicking a traditional mosque niche and painting a woman into it. It revels in Arabic calligraphy and uses it as gilding the lily. This all looks celebratory and rejoiceful. Yet, because they are all embellishments around a central figure (often a woman figure), and as figurative work is not commended in Islamic art, my artwork can be read as a critique or a challenge to the artistic ideals according to the social norms. It is especially so when I tell a story or include a text that directly spells out a rebellious statement.
What impact do you want your art to have on the viewer? What intellectual or emotional experience do you want your artwork to evoke in the viewer?
I seek social justice and to reclaim women’s power and authority. I want women’s bodies to be seen as they are, life forces and earthbound, like all other bodies. But I do not necessarily want people to be transformed (though that would be cool), but instead, I seek acceptance of myself as a person who believes in those things. I want to find room for values of equity to exist and thrive among others. I need communities around me to acknowledge my presence as I am, and not to force me to pretend.
What are your artistic goals for the near future and long term?
During the pandemic, I am home-studio bound, which is a marvelous thing. I found myself going back into 2D painting, both oil and digital painting. I did not have many deadlines, so I played a little with those and learned a few things. I am into animation, too, but my projects are still in the very early stages.
Can you tell us about the people or events that have had the most significant influence on you and your art career?
There was a room in my great aunt’s home called “the black room.” I lived in that house for a considerable period of my childhood. That room was painted black by the soot from the fireplace. It was a living room for a large community of women. Family, extended family, friends, neighbors, servants, and ex-enslaved women all gathered in that room. Meals, hanging-outs, naps, storytelling, and informal visits happened there every day. That room and its history are still living within me and always providing inspiration.
After immigrating from Saudi Arabia, Hend Al-Mansour gained a Master of Fine Arts from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2002. In 2013 she earned a Master’s in art history from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her work unfolds across painting, screen-printing, drawing, installation, and 2D animation.
Influenced by Islamic art and architecture, she places human figures within a milieu of Arabic geometric design with a warm and vibrant palette. Al-Mansour is a recipient of a Minnesota State Art Board grant (2019), McKnight visual art fellowship (2018), 2013/14 Jerome Fellowship of Printmaking, and the 2012 Juror’s Award of the Contemporary Islamic Art exhibition in Riyadh. She has shown nationally and internationally. You can see more of her work at www.hendalmansour.com.