Printmaker Diana Abouchacra explores the effects of xenophobia

Diana Abouchacra printmaking exhibition opened Wed., April 19 in UConn's art building. The pieces will be on display until April 22. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

Diana Abouchacra printmaking exhibition opened Wed., April 19 in UConn's art building. The pieces will be on display until April 22. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

Diana Abouchacra promoted unity with her printmaking in the University of Connecticut art building Wednesday night.

“The way media portrays people and events is almost always without a context that allows people to connect. The distilled versions of things that the media creates often sets the viewer up to make assumptions about places and cultures that can be harmful, so with this piece, my objective was to provoke an emotion and thought. I wanted to create a sensitivity in the individual that paves the way for reflection, which brings about unity,” Abouchacra said.

Her work was opened to the public along with homemade treats from her family in room 109 of the art building. It consisted of several large prints of black, humanoid figures on layered sheets of a special Japanese paper called tengucho. Highly textured and strangely human, a large crowd was drawn to the door even before the gallery had officially opened.

“What is interesting about Diana’s work is that regardless of the context, whether it’s her drawings or a 3 by 3 print or a 13 foot tall piece, I always know it is her work. The style is so concise and coherent across all of her works that it is almost as if they are telling a story. When you have seen much of her work it starts to feel like they are all a part of a greater conversation,” 8th-semester photography student, Michael Amato, said.

Covering an entire wall of the gallery, Abouchacra’s huge 10 by 3 foot curtains of paper hung in such a way, with different values and placements of the prints, that gave it an eerie scene; many of the humanoid figures were shrouded by more paper or other figures in groups. The prints themselves were created with black oil based ink and the stamps were life-sized cutouts, an intentional choice by the artist to create a piece that was “less of an image that people could separate themselves from, and more of a setting where people felt more engaged by the figures.”

An important part of the gallery show came about as an aside in the form of a performance conducted by Abouchacra. She gently and patiently lifted the layers of the paper into the air, revealing prints of individuals or groups that had been visually separated from others within the piece. As the ultra-thin paper gently fell back into place on the gallery wall she went down the rows, exposing the layers of her work, deeply steeped in multiplicity of both printmaking and the individual.

“The paper, on its own, was an incredibly interesting aspect of the pieces. How it interacted with the air in the room was a great addition. Just the quality of the paper, how thin and light it was really impacted the overall imagery,” Fine Arts Masters student, Luke Seward, said.

Abouchacra had always wanted to go work for an Idea Grant gallery piece but she wanted to make an impact if given the chance. Her work originated in frustration with xenophobia in America. She did extensive research on campus through the sociology and psychology departments to get a true understanding of why this socially disparaging mindset occurs and how it works. The project culminated into one that consisted of over 48 sheets, only half of them were selected into the final version that is available for viewing in the gallery today. The pieces will be up for viewing until April 22.


Dan Wood is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.wood@uconn.edu.