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Artists explore dissolution and the cultural landscape of loss
Elena Dorfman, Hany, 2013. 16 x 20.

NEW ORLEANS, LA.- Honoring the Newcomb College legacy of focusing on women artists, the Newcomb Art Museum presents two solo exhibitions Diana Al-Hadid and Elena Dorfman: Syria’s Lost Generation. Works by the Syrian-born sculptor and the California-based fine art photographer are on view May 9 through July 24.

“This pair of exhibitions not only recognizes the contributions of two important artists,” noted museum director Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, “they also draw attention to a part of the world that has critical and far-reaching implications.”

At the crossroads of several ancient civilizations, Syria has recently witnessed almost unfathomable casualties and widespread cultural destruction as its nearly five-year civil war rages on.

Diana Al-Hadid (1981 – ) creates sculptures and paintings that suggest such worlds upended. Inspired by historical forms from art and architecture, they appear trapped in an eternal moment of precariousness, decay, and, ultimately, transformation.

Recognized for their materiality, Al-Hadid’s works are charged with drips, textures, patterns, and ornaments that recall Arabic calligraphy and Islamic textiles while also alluding to European Old Master works. The works bridge the Middle Eastern world of the artist’s early childhood and the Western world she now inhabits.

Commissioned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Elena Dorfman (1965 – ) spent six months documenting the Syrian conflict, which to date has led to the death of nearly 500,000 people and the exile of an additional four million. Dorfman felt drawn to Syrian teenagers as they “seemed particularly shell-shocked and bereft."

Like Al-Hadid’s sculpture’s, the figures populating Dorfman’s Syria’s Lost Generation appear in a liminal state—detached from their pasts and confronting uncertain futures. The photographs capture ruptured worlds, haunting relics of personal and cultural ruination.

Diana Al-Hadid received a BA in Art History and a BFA in sculpture from Kent State University and an MFA in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. She later attended Maine’s Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Her work is included in the collections of The Whitney Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Weatherspoon Art Museum, among others. She has had solo exhibitions at institutions such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Nasher Sculpture Center, Nevada Museum of Art, and the Hammer Museum.

Elena Dorfman graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1988, and has specialized in documenting extreme circumstances and unusual subjects. She has exhibited her work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Museum of Modern Art. Dorfman lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

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