Artists without Borders: Reflections on Art and Place opens @ MOWA

by Jim Dittmann
0 comment


The Museum of Wisconsin Art announces the opening of its newest exhibition Artists without Borders: Reflections on Art and Place featuring nine Wisconsin artists with ties abroad. The multidisciplinary works address the allure and challenges of immigration including issues of identity and the meaning of home and place. Spanning both museum locations, the exhibition opens April 24 at the museum’s main venue in West Bend and May 12 at its downtown Milwaukee gallery, MOWA | DTN, located inside Saint Kate—The Arts Hotel.

Gabrielle Tesfaye, Yene Fikir Ethiopia (My Love, Ethiopia) (video still), 2019. Hybrid Film & Animation. Courtesy of the artist

Seven of the exhibiting artists are first-generation immigrants who draw artistic influence from their home countries. The two remaining artists were born in the Midwest, but their work represents attempts to understand the worlds from which their families originate. Exhibiting artists include: Faisal Abdu’Allah, Nina Ghanbarzadeh, David Najib Kasir, Francisco X. Mora, Nirmal Raja, Gabrielle Tesfaye, Jason Yi, Rina Yoon, and Xiaohong Zhang.

David Najib Kasir, Adding by Subtracting Safety Zones & Panic, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 in. Courtesy of the artist

“Time and time again, art has proven to be an effective means for opening minds and generating new perspectives,” said Director of Exhibitions Graeme Reid. “In our current climate, exhibitions that explore difficult subjects such as immigration help drive conversations, foster new understandings, and diminish differences. That’s what we want viewers to take away from this exhibition.”

In tandem with Artists without Borders, twenty-four teen artists from twelve regional high schools have been asked to create art that addresses the theme of identity. The ancillary exhibition Myself When I Am Real: A Teen Perspective on Identity on view May 15 – June 6 highlights their unique take on the relationship between art, place, and character as a teen in today’s complex world.

The teen exhibition features twenty-four works—two representatives each from the following twelve high schools selected by their respective art educators: Cedarburg High School, Étude High School, Hartford High School, Kohler High School, Menomonee Falls High School, Nicolet High School, Ozaukee High School, Pius High School, Veritas High School, University School of Milwaukee, West Bend East High School, and West Bend West High School.

MOWA in West Bend, Wisconsin is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30–4:00. Admission as low as $15 provides unlimited visits for one full year. MOWA | DTN located within Saint Kate–The Arts Hotel in downtown Milwaukee is free and open to the public during lobby hours.


Faisal Abdu’Allah—British-born Abdu’Allah began his career focusing his attention on issues of race, diversity, and cultural representation that were surfacing in art in London during the 1980s. He brought this same focus to his life in the United States: his subjects remain his Muslim identity, working-class life, and now the émigré experience.

Nina Ghanbarzadeh—Ghanbarzadeh finds inspiration by navigating between her native Farsi language and English. She emigrated from Iran to the United States in 2001.

Ghanbarzadeh is keenly aware of both the limitations of language as well as the inherent power and universality of letters as symbols. She finds repetitive mark-making to be a meditative process, and she invites the viewer to experience the marks as a bridge to shared human experience.

David Najib Kasir—Kasir was born in Chicago, but his work is deeply rooted in his Arab ancestry: his mother is Syrian and his father Iraqi. He experienced his family’s aesthetic and cultural roots during a trip to Syria in 1999, then subsequently was horrified by that nation’s ensuing civil war and its many victims of chaos and destruction. Using a traditional Arab mosaic design, Kasir poignantly balances the human tragedy with the subtle beauty of tradition.

Francisco X. Mora—Mora was an artist from childhood. His years in his native Mexico studying textiles, printmaking, and painting translated well to his life and career in the United States after he arrived in 1980. In his current paintings and drawings, which draw upon Mexican surrealist tradition, he seeks to reconcile past and current events related to his personal experience.

Nirmal Raja— An interdisciplinary artist with a global perspective, Indian-born Raja lived in South Korea and Hong Kong before immigrating to the United States in 1991. In her work, she addresses historical narratives of colonialism and migration and the orientalist representation of cultures in the media and in art and culture. To assert that adaptability and mutability are key to an immigrant’s survival, Raja uses mutable materials like fabric, wax, and plaster.

You may also like: – Woodson Art Museum

You may also like