Sami Al Karim


Sami Al Karim
Sep 12 – Nov 2, 2013

Presenting two exhibitions of photography-based work in the main gallery and the Viewing Room, Sami Al Karim’s “Dream” and “Identity Steps” series address a transcendent view of identity as understood through self- love. As a political exile from his Iraqi homeland along with his brother and fellow artist Halim Al Karim, Sami Al Karim’s artistic mark is both passionate and hard won. Both artists directly experienced what it is to be disconnected from family, friends and country and to be profoundly challenged by what defines personal identity even as a politically-motivated, military regime attempted to strip away all dignity. As is proudly, yet mindfully, acknowledged by the artist, Sami Al Karim endured extreme incarceration under a death sentence as a political prisoner at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. 

Jailed for displaying a heartfelt “Peace for All” sign that by some twisted view was offensive to the authorities – the indomitable impulse of Al Karim’s soul to create was kept kindled. He states, "There was a small layer of salt on the cement walls and I used a piece of wood to make the outline of my paintings. I had to erase the whole show before the morning when the guards visited the cells." The clandestine drawings coalesced with his memories of what it was like to be outdoors in nature prior to his imprisonment and are at the center of the artist’s “Dream” series. Comprised of multiple images from select locations from Europe, the Middle East and the US, the artist imbues the layered imagery with a passionate intensity informed by his past perilous experiences; ineffable in their origin and palpably felt.

While his works may reflect personal losses, what is truest for Sami Al Karim is that each of the series’ most importantly reflects his understanding that universal love remains as the singular constant in the world. The artist states, "Art can present an alternative to what people think they realize or to what they expect to know which might otherwise be too painful or too beautiful to experience.  I try to capture a single moment when home and exile do not seem opposed to each other, but are parts of the single process of our existence. Through my work, I recognize the possibility that there are no true boundaries in our lives.”