Archive for the ‘Kuwaiti Diaries’ Category

Mubkhar (Bokhoor Holder). Bokhoor charcoal on paper. February, 2010.

Bukhoor made from sandalwood. via alharamainperfumes.co.uk

The charcoal is heated on the stove or fire and the bukhoor is placed on top. The resulting scented smoke can be found in Arab airports, home, stores, offices.

I received a container of bokhoor, the rare scented wood whose fragrance is used in Arab tradition to perfume rooms, clothes, and hair.

One evening, while listening to Gipsy Kings, I thought of using the bokhoor charcoal  left in the mubkhar to draw. Actual charcoal is more challenging yet has a smokey, tactile, fragrant quality that I really enjoyed. 

Soy Gitano. Bokhoor Charcoal. February, 2010

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Francoise Gilot (Picasso's Mistress), Self- Portrait. Copy. Ink on Paper. I saw this at the San Diego Museum of Art, and needed to have it.

Françoise Gilot. Self-Portrait. Copy, ink on paper. January, 2010. Françoise was Picasso's long-time mistress, an accomplished artist in her own right. I saw this piece at the San Diego Museum of Art.

The original drawing. I couldn't find it anywhere online, so hope it helps someone. No photos allowed on this one *cough*

Somebody bought me blue roses....Watercolor and Graphite. January, 2010.

Photograph edited in Photoshop. February, 2010.

Coffee Carrier (delle). Graphite on paper. Kuwait. January, 2010.

Miniature Pomegranate. Watercolor on chocolate wrap. Kuwait. January, 2010.

February 1st, Monday. I like it when a new month, sparkling with possibilities, starts on a Monday, a beginning of a new week. This February finds me physically incapacitated ( I have been down with a bad cold since last week)-  but my spirits are up, because of the things I have been reading, the art documentaries I have been watching, the places I have been (a brief jaunt to San Francisco) and the interesting people I met. I have been feeding my mind and doing lots of different things, so today I want to catch up, and share.

What I have been doing: Teaching. This quarter my classes are First Year Design Studio; History of Architecture; Art: Neoclassic to Modern (where my students are researching Women Artists); and Non-Western Traditions (where I can share my travels in Kuwait). Perfect, but insanely busy.

What I have been listening: Gipsy Kings and Sweetheart 2010, a Hearmusic compilation. Great. Now I have to buy the others in the series. Damn you, Hearmusic, why are you so good?

What I have been reading: Design Anarchy (it is a dangerous book, Buy It), Che Guevara- Una Vida Revolucionaria, Feminist Literature, The Guerrilla Girls Bedside Companion to Western Art. My brain is broiling- in a good way.

What I’ve been buying: My only shopping in Kuwait consisted of pens, pens, pens. I received a bounty of gifts, so that anything I could have wanted to buy, was given to me. And for this I will be forever grateful. But my contribution to the Kuwaiti economy can be seen below:

Pens such as these can be found in regular, small office/school supplies stores in Kuwait. In Italy they would be called 'Cartolerie'.

So I gave myself a belated Christmas present by buying a much-needed 1.5 TeraBytes External Memory (It’s a thing of Beauty), and shopped at NaraCamicie, an Italian brand known for the best shirt design in the world. I was so delighted to find it in San Francisco. I visited their Firenze store three years ago, and have been pining for Nara since then. Apparently there are only two U.S stores and when I saw the San Francisco one, I promised myself a visit for a special occasion.

What I have been watching: Art:21, a series of PBS (Public Television) documentaries on contemporary American artists, mostly alternative, independent ones.

What I have been pondering (on Photography):

Joe Nicholson, the First Year coordinator at my school, a veteran academic, who brings a Yale-borne rigour to our class and an incredible dose of warmth, fun and passion for art and architecture (and who I consider my mentor) shared with us this anecdote:

When I was a young man and new to San Diego, I stumbled upon a photographer’s studio. ‘Oh, so you take pictures’ I said to the Photographer. And the Photographer answered: ‘I don’t “take” pictures. I make pictures.’

Joe Nicholson


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Ink on tracing paper. Kuwait, January 2010. The scene at the bottom is what I saw-or decided to see- at The Avenues, the most popular mall in Kuwait City. There is nothing like seeing photography and drawings from a trip abroad to let it sink in that all reality is subjective, and we choose to see what we want to. We just don't realize it in our own backyard.

This was my small parting gift to my art-sister
Ghadah. I went to Kuwait without a proper gift for her, so I thought I would leave her with a low-tech collage, on tracing paper, of my trip. In keeping with the theme of censorship, which fascinated me- and was the basis for a project of a good friend of Ghada’s-I smudged the personal writing. Censorship frustrates me, and in some cases, puzzles me (especially the haphazard application of it); in other it surprises me- when the censor shows some obvious artistic abilities and inclinations- and I wanted to explore this in something I made. Seeing blurred information makes me feel denied.

(Mis)Using the name of a british band, Does It Offend You, Yeah?


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House in the 'Beit Al-Badr' complex, in the old part of Kuwait City. January 2010

As they used to say in old time radio ‘ This concludes our series’.

From Lonely Planet:

A traditional mud-built house, with heavy carved doors, Beit al-Badr was built between 1838 and 1848 and is one of the last examples of pre-oil residential architecture in the city. It is located alongside Sadu House.

A new multilane rotatory car-belt is being built adjacent the complex; the sight of the construction crews left me forlorn, mourning a loss that was not mine, and yet affected me – the loss of worn pathways, the tyranny of cars.
Half around the world, once again, cities are designed around automobiles, and not people.

So yes, this is the last installment of my Kuwaiti photography (for now?)
I still have some drawings to share, and a way to hold on to this trip for a few more days.

Traveling begets traveling, and the only cure for the invariable melancholia that follows a return home is to plan the next escapade.

Goodbye Kuwait

The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.

Saint Augustine


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Well, I cannot believe almost three weeks went by since the last post! I returned from my incredible trip on the 7th of the month and school kickedoff at  lightning speed.  I have two more classes I am teaching this quarter, so there’s been quite a bit of readjustment. But I am back- and it feels good-  and I still have two more installments of my Kuwaiti Diaries.

As the days and weeks go by, and as I go through the hundreds of photos I took, the notion that I was actually–ever-too-briefly– in this faraway country of pied beauty, of warm and generous people, and of jarring contrasts between tradition and modernity seems closer and closer to the realm of Illusion.  I left just as I was beginning to understand.

I hope you enjoy what I brought back.


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The local ‘Souq’ is called Mubarakiya, named after Mubarak, a leader who was the sheik (‘shehk’, family ruler) from the Al-Sabah family, which is still the ruling family of modern Kuwait. Kuwait combines ancient tradition with a democratic political system (Parliament), and is a melting pot of past and present, as I was able to see in the Mubarakiya.

Kuwait | The Present and The Present


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Lights from Kuwait City. Just before the new year, overlooking the Arabian Gulf.

Happy New Year.

I welcomed 2010 on a beach, overlooking the Arabian Gulf.

In Italy we say that what you do the first day of the year you will do all year, and I would love to continue doing art -and posting it- all of 2010. I am in Kuwait for the holidays and, feeling like a foreign correspondant, I offer these sights. I do not have my usual computer- and Photoshop, so here are these images, raw, unedited, uncropped, uncaptioned.  I hope you will enjoy them.

This is the Al-Boom and surrounding areas, my first sighting of Kuwait and its history. It is also called the Hashemi, a recent reproduction of the ancient vessel (Kuwaitis were sea-people, like my father, merchants and pearl collectors).

The Al- Boom is the biggest man made vessel constructed out of wood , its interior is used as a reception hall. I found it magnificent, and the details were exquisite, something to revel on.

Kuwait/ Hidden Eden/ Pearls in the Shell

Gallery Updated  Jan.2, 2010


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