Presence: Reflections on the Middle East exhibition

February 3 – April 8, 2017

This exhibition of more than 60 photo-based works reflect the tension inherent in the presence, or absence, of people in a place, whether in their native land or abroad. Organized by the CVA, Presence: Reflections on the Middle East features 12 artists living in the U.S. and abroad.

The artists, all who are affected by the Middle East diaspora of the past 20 years, explore what it means to leave something, and in some cases, someone, behind, whether by choice or by force, and how cultural heritage and the past are interwoven with the present. Through controlling placement and context of the figure, along with the subtleties of obscurity, these artists preserve identity, relationship and agency.

Photography has been theorized and argued many different ways, but there is usually no disagreement about its power in relationship to memories and the past. Since its invention, photography has been tied to the notion of the trace. Often, a presence is felt most acutely through its absence. Photographs, either directly or indirectly, contain the trace of what came before.

Artists include

Arwa Abouon, Golnar Adili, Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Samira Alikhanzadeh, Halim Al Karim, Sami Al Karim, Tulu Bayar, Shadi Ghadirian, Rula Halawani, Laleh Mehran, Javid Tafazoli, Samir Yamin

Exhibition Image Checklist


All events free and open to the public

Opening reception
Friday, Feb 3, 6-8pm
During Art District on Santa Fe's First Friday

Young Artist Studio: Manipulated Photography
Tuesdays & Wednesdays, Feb 7 - Mar 22, 3:30-5:30pm
Open studio & workshops for ages 11-21

Artist talk with Laleh Mehran
Wednesday, Feb 8, 6pm 
Laleh Mehran moved to the U.S. from Iran when she was a child in the 1970s; she now lives in Denver. The daughter of Iranian scientists, her relationship to this subject is necessarily complex, and is even more so now given a political climate in which certain views are increasingly suspect. As part of her work, she delves into themes such as dissent and exile – even her own complicated relationship with politics, theology and science.

Artist talk with Golnar Adili
Wednesday, March 29, 5pm
Remembering Tehran: A Decade’s Review - Golnar Adili will discuss the beginning of her art practice including an architecture travel grant to Tehran, the stages of her artistic development, and the non-boundaries between craft, design and fine art in her own work.

Exhibition Organization and Sponsorship

Presence: Reflections on the Middle East is organized by Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) Center for Visual Art (CVA).

Generous support is provided by MSU Denver’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. CVA Annual Sponsors are MSU Denver Student Affairs Board, SpringHill Suites Downtown at MSU Denver, Jan and Fred Mayer Fund, Marcia Gold Naiman Fund, Campbell Foundation Fund and BBVA Compass Bank.

The exhibition is curated by Cecily Cullen, Managing Director / Curator of CVA, Leila Armstrong, Visiting Faculty – Art History, Theory and Criticism, MSU Denver, and Natascha Seideneck, Visiting Faculty – Photography, MSU Denver.