August 31, 2010
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.