Arab American Art
Arab artists coming to the United States bring with them a diverse and rich legacy of art and culture. Whether they hail from metropolitan cities such as Beirut, Lebanon; Cairo, Egypt; Baghdad, Iraq; or from small towns and villages, many Arab artists grow up surrounded by ancient monuments and other works of art produced by local artisans for thousands of years.
The Arab world’s geographical position as an ancient crossroads and the extensive trade that went on there, the art and culture of the Arab world has both influenced and been influenced by many civilizations. The art and monuments of the Arab world reflect this mix of cultures. Arab art includes richly painted tombs of ancient Egypt, detailed mosaics, ceramic tiles, rugs, pottery, sculpture, and architecture throughout the region.
Arab-Islamic art often avoids drawing living forms, especially humans and animals. Although the Koran, the Muslim holy book, does not prohibit the representation of human figures in art, Islamic art avoids portraying humans, especially prophets and leaders, to prevent people from worshipping their images. Mosques and other houses of worship are decorated with Arabesque designs, two-dimensional plantlike or geometric shapes that are repeated in patterns.
There are few records of artists among the early Arab immigrants to the United States aside from the famous poet and painter Kahlil Gibran. Since the 1950’s many Arab artists came to the study in the United States, while others immigrated to this country after completing their studies in the arts in their own countries. Today there are numerous Arab American artists producing exceptional work in this country. Unless their work represents their Arab heritage in either its form or content, it is difficult to tell that they are of Arab origin.