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Arts & Culture

For Syrian-Born Artist, "Remodeling the Destruction" of Civil War Is Dark, But Hopeful

Think of them like magic portals: tiny architectural models transporting you directly onto Syria's streets and forcing you to look at the bombed-out buildings and homes hit by the worst of that country's civil war.

"The more realistic the model is, the more engaged your viewer is," said MohamadHafez, a Syrian-born architect raised in Saudi Arabia and educated in the U.S. 

Hafez describes his work as "remodeling the destruction" of his homeland's civil war -- channeling all the despair, and hope, he sees embedded in that conflict.

"To make such work, to make it look believable and realistic, I have to immerse myself in what's going on back home," said Hafez. "Sometimes I collapse, looking at what I've created."

In one piece, "His Royal Highness II" (pictured above) a palatial building sits directly atop a bombed out village -- two slices of living in war-torn Syria that Hafez bisects with a layer of dirt and rotted roots.

Hafez said the architectural contrast illustrates how a dictatorship uses its force to sustain its power. "It is dark. There is nothing happy about a civil war or seeing destruction of your own nation," he said. "However, the work imbues ... sort of a subtle hope and a brighter future for the generations to come."

Credit Mohamad Hafez / The Harts Gallery
"Un-faced," a model by Hafez, incorporates an Arabic graffiti phrase from the Qu' ran. It roughly translates as, "Think not that God doth not heed the deeds of those who do wrong. He but giveth them respite against a Day when the eyes will fixedly stare in horror."

It's something Hafez accomplishes through inspiring verses from the Qu'ran, which are rebelliously embedded in the streetscapes as colorful graffiti.

"You know, I cannot be there on [the] ground to give my condolences and my support in person," said Hafez. "But I can make a piece that shows so much destruction and graffiti on one of the walls, a very simple phrase that gives them hope."

The exhibition, entitled "Unsettled Nostalgia," is on view at The Harts Gallery at 20 Bank Street in New Milford until February 27.

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