Double Blessings: curated by CONNECT Curator-in-residence Noel Maghathe

Opening Friday, August 4th 5–9pm

With Fadl Fakhouri, Besan Khamis, Amena Sheikh, & Mohammad Tayyeb

Fruits, like ethereal threads, weave together ancestral longing, bridging us home, anchoring us to the sustenance soil of Falasteen.

Double Blessings traverses the landscapes of four artists with rooted connections to Palestine – Fadl Fakhouri (Oakland/Khalil), Besan Khamis (Baltimore/Nazareth), Amena Sheikh (Cincinnati/Gaza), and Mohammed Tayyeb (Los Angeles/Khalil). Each string a narrative of consumption, lineage, resistance, and storytelling, using food as their common yet diverse language.

Understood on one level, consumption is an act of identity affirmation, a way for Palestinians to maintain a sense of home, tradition, and self amidst the currents of displacement and cultural erasure. Each food, imbued with memories of homeland and familial bonds, serves as a vessel for preserving cultural heritage.

However, the theme of consumption is also framed against the backdrop of restriction and deprivation. The apartheid’s constraints on Palestine have restricted access to essential resources, including food. These limitations resonate in the artworks as poignant commentaries on the realities of the Palestinian condition and our experiences of not living in Palestine. The depicted fruits – watermelons, oranges, lemons – become symbols of what is once readily available, provided by the land, and yet often denied and restricted, accentuating the realities faced by the Palestinians.

The act of eating, therefore, transforms into an act of resistance. It underscores the Palestinian spirit of resilience in the face of adversity, signifying an enduring connection to our homeland and a refusal to let go of their cultural identity despite systemic constraints. Each bite is not just a taste of home but also a taste of defiance, a testament to the spirit of survival and the will to hold on to their roots.

Navigating the spaces between consumption and restriction, the works in Double Blessings bring a multilayered narrative of culture, identity, and resilience. Amena Sheikh’s photographs, infused with traditional Palestinian embroidery, become visual narratives that delve into the complexities of navigating the diaspora. Fruit motifs and expressive hands symbolize a hidden secret shared between the viewer and the opened fruit, bridging family, perseverance, and storytelling. Paintings and sculptures by Besan Khamis are a continuation of traditions regarding physical connections to the soil of Palestine, celebrating the beauty native to our land and geography. Mohammed Tayyeb, inspired by the resistance and resilience of his communities, creates multifunctional multi-woven graphics filled with longing and nourishment. He breaks down ancestral patterns and trauma while celebrating existence and striving for liberation. By blending their wisdom with that of these communities, Tayyeb aims to challenge alienation and reclaim his rightful place. Ending with Fadl Fakhouri’s works, they explore the complexity of nourishment and the violence inherent in life. Through videos and sculpture, Fakhouri creates a commentary on life’s intrinsic aggression and potential for disruption.

In Double Blessings, shared histories of resistance and resilience intertwine, layering personal and communal experiences often omitted or simplified in mainstream narratives. These four artists craft a language of memory and persistence that transcends boundaries of time and geography, claiming new moments, moments in a free Palestine.

About the Artists

Fadl Fakhouri (b.1997, San Francisco, CA) centers on dots and lines as a method of pursuing definition and positionality. Through the utility of body, images, and contextualized objects, they formulate poetic statements of determination. Fadl has exhibited work at SFAI (San Francisco), A.I.R. (New York), Times Square (New York), Jacobs Institute (Berkeley), Worth Ryder (Berkeley), The Cincinnati Art Museum, and The Jewish Museum (New York). They hold a BA in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California Berkeley and an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University.

Besan Khamis (b.1994, San Francisco, CA) is a Palestinian-American artist and fisherman based in Baltimore, Maryland (MICA 2016). His paintings forage the landscape of personal and family memory, blending these elements into realist and surrealist abstractions. His sculptural works follow a similar genealogy; tapping into his own inventory of imagery and the collective subconscious, he uses playfulness to turn the ordinary unexpected, illustrating the thin line that separates comedy and tragedy, while offering an implicit critique of social relations.

Amena Sheikh (b.1998, Cincinnati, OH) is a Palestinian American artist based in Cincinnati. Her artwork combines textiles with print images, specifically integrating traditional Palestinian embroidery. Through her work, Amena aims to convey a feeling of discovery, like a hidden secret shared between the viewer and the opened fruit, and the pride that comes with carrying the knowledge of a secret treasure, but also addressing the feelings of emptiness, longing, and isolation that often accompany it. Sheikh has exhibited throughout the Midwest, including galleries such as Wave Pool Gallery and the Cincinnati Art Museum, with projects supported by ArtsWave.

Mohammad Tayyeb (b.1997, Amman, JO) Palestinian Jordanian artist based in Los Angeles since 2018. I have written, produced, and performed five solo works: Leaving Is Forever, Cell Project Space, London; MY MUSK, MY WAIST (is burning), The Box, Los Angeles (2019); The Liminal Space and I, REDCAT, Los Angeles and Daret el Funun, Amman; Awakening, Al-Balad Theatre, Amman (2015). My moving image works have been presented at Human Resources, Los Angeles; Ordet, Milan; and the National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman.

About the Curator

Noel Maghathe (b.1994, Cincinnati, OH) is a Palestinian-American independent curator and artist. They began their curatorial journey after receiving a BFA from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and being awarded the Stephen H. Wilder Traveling Scholarship in 2017. Maghathe has curated for significant institutions, including the CUE Art Foundation, where they were Curatorial Awardee in 2022, and Roots & Culture Contemporary Arts Center, their current residency. Their work, tied to their Palestinian roots and the broader Arab diaspora, actively delves into the depths of personal identity, ancestry, and other moments involved in the human experience. In doing so, they shape narrative, heritage, and aesthetics in exhibitions such as A thought is a memory and Amid. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Maghathe continues dialogue and education in their curatorial and personal art practice.