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Juniata Museum Exhibits Artworks by Iraqi Artist Inspired by Epic Poem

(Posted September 7, 2010)

Mohammed Al Shammerey has based artworks in his current exhibit at the Juniata College Museum of Art on the epic poem "Rain Song."

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Using a variety of mediums -- painting, video and printmaking -- Iraqi artist Mohammed Al Shammerey will exhibit artworks based on a single source of inspiration -- the poem "Rain Song," by Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab. The exhibition, "Mohammed Al Shammerey: Rain Song," at the Juniata College Museum of Art will run from Thursday, Sept. 16 through Saturday, Oct. 30.

There will be an opening reception for the exhibition at 5 p.m.

The exhibition opening will be preceded by a lecture on "Remembering Al-Sayyab: Iraq, Modernism and Poetry," by Sinan Antoon, assistant professor of Arabic culture at New York University, at 4 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 16 in Alumni Hall in the Brumbaugh Academic Center.

Mohammed Al Shammerey is a self-taught artist who uses abstract imagery and symbols in his work. Many of his pieces explore the boundaries between paintings, sculpture and installation art. He also created the cover art for Sinan Antoon's new novel, "The Pomegranate Alone."

Al Shammerey's inspiration, "Rain Song," introduced free verse into Arabic poetry in the 1940s and 1950s. "Rain Song" was celebrated in literary circles for its groundbreaking use of myth to describe images of life, death and renewal. Al Shammerey uses nature and technology to create his art. Some of the pieces in the exhibition were placed outside after he completed them so they would be unpredictably altered by rainfall. Other pieces were digitalized and altered using computers.

"It would be impossible to call yourself an artist of there were no reference to the war in your work. The war is the time you are living in."
Mohammed Al Shammerey

The artist read "Rain Song" as a boy and remained uninfluenced by its words. After serving in the Iraqi army during the Iran-Iraq War and the First Gulf War, Al Shammerey reread the poem and found its imagery prophetic. His work continually references his experience in earlier wars and the current war in Iraq.

"It would be impossible to call yourself an artist of there were no reference to the war in your work. The war is the time you are living in," said Al Shammerey in an online article.

The Juniata exhibit is Al Shammerey's first solo exhibition in the United States. He has exhibited his work in galleries and museums throughout the Middle East and has participated in group shows at the British Museum, Columbia University and the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston, Texas.
The Juniata College Museum of Art is located in historic Carnegie Hall at 17th and Moore streets in Huntingdon. Museum hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, please call the museum at (814) 641-3505, or visit the Juniata College Web site at http://www.juniata.edu/museum.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.