Campus News

UW-Madison art professor talks cultural transformation, black identity in artwork

Abdu’Allah showed the audience at Gordon Commons pictures of his artwork, which have been exhibited in galleries around the world, including the Chazen Museum on campus.

Abdu’Allah showed the audience at Gordon Commons pictures of his artwork, which have been exhibited in galleries around the world, including the Chazen Museum on campus.

Image By: Jon Yoon

Faisal Abdu’Allah, a UW-Madison associate professor of art and Creative Arts Community faculty director, spoke Tuesday night about the representation of transformation, identity and racial issues in his artwork.

Abdu’Allah showed the audience at Gordon Commons pictures of his artwork, which have been exhibited in galleries around the world, including the Chazen Museum on campus.

He discussed the significance of his artwork, saying that many of his pieces are often socially and politically engaging for his audience.

Abdu’Allah said the inspiration for his exhibits stem from a lack of representation of people of color in art, as well as the cultural transformation of his black and Muslim identity.

“You can imagine the level of starvation of images of representation that people have had,” he said. “It’s about finding a way to restore that, and to make people understand that there is value in things that some people may see as insignificant.”

Abdu’Allah said his artwork is also a way to empower and create visibility for the black community.

“The more things that I create visually, the more indexes there are,” he said. “I became an artist to ensure that I’m never going to be invisible again.”

He encouraged students and others from underrepresented communities to use their creativity in order to initiate political and social change.

“I try to tell my students that creativity is the only way that you can implement social change, because it’s done through representation,” Abdu’Allah said. “If you do not see a trace of yourself, you need to be someone that has to contribute to changing that, no matter how small or how large it is.”

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