A pink taxi

A pink taxi

August 31, 2010

Lara Baladi

Lara Baladi's art is truly a celebration of life. Her collages are always on a large scale, representing colorful panoramas of mermaids and starfish, or deserts and pyramids, safari animals, or even night club ravers!

The Egyptian-Lebanese artist's own joyful composure is reflected in her work.I have encountered her at two different occasions, for the openings of her shows, and she listened to my applause with pleasant humility. One of my nephews, who lives in New York, is lucky to inhabit the room with the largest empty wall in their house, just the appropriate space for Lara Baladi's "Justice for the Mother". He sleeps in a room with statues of lions resembling those in front of the NY Public Library, giraffes, the artist's father on a motorcycle, a tiny picture of John Travolta dancing for Saturday Night Fever, some panthers and zebras, and many more figures, all collaged in a stunning compostion three meters long!

When I saw her most recent show however, I was shocked by its gloomy thematic. While  "Justice for the mother" was a celebation of her deceased father's life, in this show, she relived his difficult time of illness. She created a very large artistic production composed of 81 collections of photographs of Arabic coffee cups. Each one is different, placed in chronological order. She had photographed the coffee cups offered to every visitor that came to her father's bed side. Some of the coffee cups had lipstick stains, others were turned over, ready for coffee cup reading, some had small memos jotted next to them, others were in the sink ready to be dishwashed.

I marveled at the idea of her selling them one panel at a time, each with nine coffee cups. The art buyer would then own a piece of a whole, a moment in time, although a sad one for the artist. But who has ever claimed art grows of joy? The best art is a product of sorrow.

Nevertheless what touched me in a most meaningful and personal way was how she identified arabic coffee with sorrow and loss. I refuse to drink Arabic coffee nowadays, as its taste only reminds me of the days we mourned my grandmother, sitting for those four long days of condolences, where they traditionally only offer bitter Arabic coffee and water. I was touched that Lara Baladi shared in the same personal identification as I did, and expressed it in such an artistic way, one that made me smile, as even her saddest piece of art can  bring a smile to one's face.


  1. It's always fun meeting the artist in person. It gives the work of art a story and personal touch. I also met Baladi at the same exhibition the Blogger attended. And I was also present when the large collage was sold at Christies to my sister and brother in law. And the best part is when you get to enjoy art in the homes of people closest to your heart.

  2. Wow I didnt know much about Lara Baladi, but I will definitely be interested in checking out her next works. You really got my interest going in this artist. The coffee collages is such an interesting idea. Though reading this blog on a Ramadan morning makes me crave the sweet aroma of a warm cup of coffee. I cant wait for the blogger to return so we can share a cup each. Mine will be turkish with extra sugar and hers ofcourse courtesy of starbucks.

  3. Middle Eastern people are as attached to their coffee and cigarettes,as the Westerners love teir bars and pubs!
    I remember when my mother was at the American University Hospital in Beirut,just after the closure of the civil war.People socialized in hospitals and "Aza" meetings.Coffee and cigarettes were present and abused in abundance,very similar to the exhibition subject of Lara Baladi.
    Lara, a diminutive ordinary looking young woman,grows on you once you talk to her with her shy smile and open character.An artist to be watched!

  4. Lara Baladi's work immediately impressed me. I loved the happy feel it emanates and the detailed work she puts into each of her pieces. On a certain level, I feel like she is of my generation of displaced, westernized Arabs, who can benefit from the best the West has to offer, while retaining the Middle Eastern traditions that matter most.
    Her coffee cup pieces are very touching and I do enjoy the story behind it, albeit a sad one. I am fan of bittersweet art and literature, and she fits the description well!

  5. http://www.galerie-sandhofer.com/gallery.php?id=29&uid=371