When I walked into the Bouabana Art Space on the rue de Marseille in Tunis last October there were paintings on the walls that looked like mine. When I took a closer look I discovered they were mine. Someone had painted new versions of my work! If I had been in America I would have called my lawyer. The Tunisian artists who were waiting to attend my workshops had downloaded photographs of my paintings from my website and used them to inspire new paintings as a welcoming gift. I do not speak French or Arabic and the artists did not speak English so we hugged each other.
That was six months ago. I have just returned from a second visit with my Tunisian artist friends. We are still hugging and also laughing and singing. When I asked the artists why they paint, one of them said, “To exhaust my disappointment.” As artists we have the same hopes and dreams, and anxieties. And the same excitement when something appears on canvas which has just sprung from our soul.
I want to return the hospitality of my Tunisian artist friends, so I have invited them to America. I want my fellow American artists to experience making art in a group where all that matters is the wonder of creating with other human beings. Our traveling exhibition will be called Building Bridges: An Exhibition of Paintings Created Collaboratively by American and Tunisian Artists.
Just before I left Tunis I collaborated on a painting with Mourad Zerai, one of the artists who will participate in the tour. We called it “Building Bridges.” The painting measures 10 feet by 8 feet, just big enough to bridge the gap between America and Tunisia.