Over the last four years my concept of place has become increasingly precious, yet increasingly abstract. When I first moved from my childhood home in rural Wisconsin to Dubai, all I wanted was to go home. I often find this same longing reflected in the experiences of others. Living in the Middle East, the concept of displacement is ever present. Many of my neighbors know that they will never return to their true homes. Babies are born into refugee camps, and children remember nothing but uniform rows of tents. Though they live lives of permanent displacement, they continue to tell stories and sing songs of the home they have never seen.
By contrast, expatriates are drawn to Dubai's stable government and robust economy. While the turmoil of the Arab world as a whole plays as a constant background loop, Dubai remains relatively untouched. With a population of over 80% expatriates, Dubai is a hub for the transient lifestyle.
In my paintings, the Dubai metro becomes a metaphor for the expatriate experience. People come and go, establish or fail in their careers, and shift their identities. Most of Dubai's residents stay only a few years. This perpetual motion plays against a constantly changing landscape, where new sky-scrapers pop up as quickly as old buildings are torn down. The metro moves through a city that shifts and shimmers like a mirage.
I look for ambiguity in the landscape because it mirrors my own experience. Like the metro, I am never fully in one place. By painting from photographs, I explore the tension between reality and abstraction, documentation and expression. The many translucent surfaces of the metro create layered, overlapping and intersecting reflections. These visual rhythms mirror the intricate, geometric repetition of Islamic art. The iconoclasm of Islamic art has provoked me to distill the human presence in my work to distant silhouettes and vague shadows. Like William Kentridge, I explore the feeling of being alienated from one's home through bleak landscapes, and narratives fraught with ambiguity. Strong leading lines and profuse detail show the constant rush of they city but are juxtaposed with blank spaces. These are the places where the cacophony of the city gives way, for a moment, to silence. Here I am filled with nostalgia; here I long for home. The expatriate experience is defined by this yearning. We are stuck in transit. We never arrive. We live in longing, displaced.