Today I went to the studio of Mizmah, a group of artists working together in a collaboration/crit group. There are four Emirati women who form the core of the group. They were all students at an interior design program at a local university who have now graduated. That is misleading though because they receive a lot of training in the fine arts. They work individually as well as collectively and are gearing up for their first solo shows. They've also done collaborative commissions locally. I was very impressed by their work- by the conceptual and even activist stance of most of their projects and by its humor. Many pieces contained references to Emirati culture but had contempary ways of interpreting it. Like young people in most places, they feel distance from some of the old traditions and use their work to bridge the gap, to honor the past, critique its outmoded styles, and to make it their own. The studio they are using is the top floor of one of their grandmother's villas. She has since died and they want to do larger shows and an artists salon at this location.
It was really refreshing to see a vibrant work space with lots of ideas bumping around. They are quite young and the artist who was there was dressed like any art student the world over- black skinny jeans and t-shirt. My first sight of an uncovered local girl! Personally, Mouza was confident and cheerful. I loved the girly touches in the space like giant bowls of candies and snacks everywhere. Although it seemed novel and exciting, I found that the struggles for Mouza were the same as ones I've heard about (right...lived through!) in NYC- balancing work and art, finding an audience who gets it, maintaining an artistic circle, balancing work with marriage and social distractions. Of course all of these institutions have different nuances here.... the marriage may be arranged by family, the audience contains bedouin heritage grandmothers, the social distractions include homes in Paris and London. Overall though, work is work, always a thankless struggle- and finally I found the good stuff.