Exploring Xenophobia Through Printmaking

Diana Abouchacra is a fifth year senior printmaking major who will be featured in the 2017 BFA Art Show on Thursday, April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ArtSpace Gallery in Willimantic. (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

Diana Abouchacra is a fifth year senior printmaking major who will be featured in the 2017 BFA Art Show on Thursday, April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ArtSpace Gallery in Willimantic. (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

This is the fourth installment of five features to spotlight UConn School of Fine Arts’ students participating in the 2017 BFA Art Show.

 

Diana Abouchacra didn’t always want to be a printmaker; in fact, after transferring to UConn three years ago, she wanted to be a painter.

“I didn’t get into a [painting] class I wanted, so I just signed up for basic printmaking,” Abouchacra said.

After taking the course, she fell in love with the craft.

“It was just so beautiful, the processes you can do, you can’t learn it other than with a professional who knows the printmaking processes,” she said.

Now in her fifth year, Abouchacra spent her first two years of college in Lebanon at the American University of Beirut.

Although she was born and raised in Connecticut, she said her parents’ hearts were always in Lebanon. So every other summer, they would visit. Her older sister had chosen to attend AUB, so when it came time for Abouchacra she was more encouraged to go there too.

“I wanted to submerse myself in that culture. I’ve been there every other summer but never got to really feel like a Lebanese citizen,” Abouchacra said.

Realizing the university wasn’t for her, and not sure what to pursue, Abouchacra transferred to the University of Connecticut for her third year.

“I was kind of all over the place. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was going to be an architect, but it was too particular to me,” she said. “[It’s] too strict with lines, math and everything so I transferred.”

It wasn’t until the spring semester of her first year at UConn that she decided she would be focusing on printmaking.

I work best under pressure. I don’t work well if I have a year to work on something. The pressure for me is what motivates me, and gives me the will power to keep going.
— Diana Abouchacra

 

Through printmaking, Abouchacra likes that it can be very experimental, and haphazard. She can represent figures disproportionally, not representative to real life.

Abouchacra’s project for the BFA show is a spinoff of another project she worked on earlier in the year in regards to the material being used.

“For my other project, I was carving into wood and had all of these wood chips (about three inches in size) so instead of throwing them out, I just kept them,” Abouchacra said. “I didn’t know what I was going to use them for, but I love collecting things.”

When she got to thinking about the BFA Show, she thought about inking the wood chips but it became a harder process so she had to experiment with other methods. Eventually she chose to do it through screen-printing.

For the show, Abouchacra will not only just show the prints of the woodchips, something she originally thought she’d do, but also have the woodchips present too.

“The process is just as interesting as the outcome,” she said.

Through her art process, Abouchacra said she aims to create unity. Much of this comes from her reflection on xenophobia in America so her artwork focuses on groupings.

“I love the idea of crowds, and just seeing figures overlaid on each other and cumulating in areas and dissipating in others,” said Abouchacra. “And the concept of an individual and without the individual there can’t be multiples.”

She expressed how this idea parallels within printmaking.

Like people, each individual inking is different, even though they might look similar when grouped together.  The impression varies through hand inking each one due to the pressure of pressing it not always being consistent.

Through her art process, Abouchacra said she aims to create unity. Much of this comes from her reflection on xenophobia in America so her artwork focuses on groupings. (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

Through her art process, Abouchacra said she aims to create unity. Much of this comes from her reflection on xenophobia in America so her artwork focuses on groupings. (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

Abouchacra said that although she wants to address certain topics with her art, the process may not always lead to that outcome, but the intention to do so is still there.

“I think the most important part of an artwork is the intention that you put into the piece,” she said. “So I like to reflect on social problems…to try to elevate the consciousness of human beings to make them more aware of where they stand in society or just to reflect on it.

When it comes to her art process, Abouchacra describes it as being odd.

“Instead of planning it out, I just have to go into it…the image comes to me as I’m working,” Abouchacra said.

A lack of planning, also transitions into how far in advance (or lack thereof) she starts to work.

“I work best under pressure. I don’t work well if I have a year to work on something,” Abouchacra said. “The pressure for me is what motivates me, and gives me the will power to keep going.”

The BFA Show is the first major show Abouchacra said she’s ever done. She said it’s nerve-racking because so much time and work has been put into the project, and “you don’t know what [the] viewers reaction will be” or if “the concept you put into your artwork will be conveyed in one night.”

But overall she is satisfied with the progress she’s made on her project. Abouchacra is working on another project at this time, which will be shown in a solo exhibition next week.

“The culmination of all these projects coming together and their concepts is something I like to congratulate myself on,” Abouchacra said.

The BFA Show is the “first big show” she’s ever done, put so much work and time into project but you don’t know what viewers reaction will be what the audience feel will the concept you put into your artwork be conveyed into that one night.

Abouchacra’s solo exhibition will be held on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the VAIS Gallery located in Art Building Room 109. The exhibition was funded through a UConn Idea Grant, and is an exploration of xenophobia through printmaking.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Show will be held on Thursday, April 13 from 6 to 8p.m. at the ArtSpace Gallery located on 480 Main Street in Willimantic, Connecticut. Admission is free.


Angie DeRosa is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at angelina.derosa@uconn.edu.  She tweets @theangiederosa.