By Sumaa Zaffar Saleem
SIPA student Sumaa Zaffar Saleem shares her artwork and tells why she makes art.
I painted these pieces for two reasons. The first one may seem obvious – to shed light on what a large proportion of the people in our world face on a daily basis – and the second, perhaps not as obvious, but certainly the root of my motivations – to establish a connection with these people through the only language that I presently can: my art.
Painting or drawing the expressions on the faces of these individuals gives me a sense of unity with them. I feel that there is an intricate bond that is formed when one zooms into what can be seen of each of their faces, it is almost as though I connect with their pain, and that is whole point.
Certainly, I can empathize with them when I see stories on the news or hear about it from others, but do I really understand?
In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly difficult, at least for me, to be able to truly understand what so many people go through every day of their lives. Certainly, I can empathize with them when I see stories on the news or hear about it from others, but do I really understand? It is incredibly difficult to put myself in their shoes when all I am doing to make the connection is reading about what is happening. Drawing them, however, gives me a perspective on another level, by making my hands the author to their story and my eyes the lens through which the paper learns of their suffering.
I want to deepen my connection with people, who are strangers, and become familiar with them by understanding, at least on some emotional level, what they stand for and why their story means something.
There are times when I find myself in tears in the middle of a painting because of the emotional impact creating it has on me, but I would not want it to be any other way because that is the point. I want to deepen my connection with people, who are strangers, and become familiar with them by understanding, at least on some emotional level, what they stand for and why their story means something. In a world where I feel an increasing disconnect with the world around me, painting expressions is my way of establishing some re-humanizing connection with people that I have never met, but for whom my heart aches. These paintings are not special to me solely because of the images they represent, but also because of the emotions that I experience while creating them.