This fall, Bellevue Arts Museum will present “Searching for Home,” the first solo museum exhibition for Seattle-based, Pakistan-born artist Humaira Abid.
Abid is well known for her bold, symbolically rich, and meticulously realized wood sculptures and miniature paintings. Her work demonstrates a fearless approach to tackling cultural norms, gender roles, and relationships, often with an ironic edge. “Searching for Home” will premiere never-before seen works by the artist, created following months of research and interviews with refugee women who have been resettled in both the Pacific Northwest and Pakistan from nations including Somalia, Syria, and Afghanistan.
The exhibition will construct a narrative through seven “stations,” or installations, that take viewers on a “search for home.” For the refugee, the concept of “home” belongs to the past and, hopefully, the future; the present, however, is trapped in limbo, focused on survival. At the center of this discussion is the plight of female refugees and their difficult journeys. These crossings often separate families and create a longing for the comfort of home and security of the domestic domain. For many, the success of the search is dependent on the implements that facilitate survival along the route, and the intermittent signs of hope that light the way forward. This, Abid’s most narrative and expansive undertaking to date, involves the intricately detailed yet confrontational imagery that forms the basis of her work.
Humaira Abid trained in Lahore, Pakistan, at the National College of Arts. Her unique course of study focused on the disciplines of traditional miniature painting and sculpture. Abid’s career-long decision to specialize in the material of wood, a typically male-dominated field, reflects her commitment to challenging stereotypes. In her work, the artist combines these seemingly incompatible mediums to create compelling works that translate the world of prosaic objects into exquisitely carved sculpture. Almost always working with a 1:1 scale, the beauty of these carvings of seemingly benign items belies the violence, cruelty, upheaval, and instability in society, especially those to which women are subject.
Ultimately, Abid harnesses her artistic vision and facility to demonstrate how these highly developed art forms of portraiture and sculpture, for generations the exclusive domain of the nobility and the elite classes, can evoke empathy and mobilize the viewer to action by focusing on the most dehumanizing and destabilizing human experiences taking place in our world, in the present time.
Humaira Abid’s “Searching for Home” is organized by Bellevue Arts Museum and guest curated by Jennifer-Navva Milliken.