August 16, 2006

SIUC artist's work on display at St. Louis gallery

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A celebrated African-American artist from Southern Illinois University Carbondale is showcasing his paintings during the "Show Me St. Louis Artists" festival at the Portfolio Gallery and Education Center in St. Louis.

Najjar Abdul-Musawwir, SIUC assistant professor of art, is among an elite group of artists selected to display their work at the Portfolio Gallery, a venue that is a haven for African-American artistic expression.

"I'm really honored to be showing my work at this gallery," Abdul-Musawwir said. "It has hosted some major events. This year the National Association of African American Museums will visit the facility. My work will seen by art enthusiasts from across the country!"

The seven Musawwir paintings in the exhibition are part of his "Fatiha and Door of Return" series. In Arabic, "Fatiha" means opening or door.

"This particular series is special to me because I am painting as a Muslim artist who is an African American," Abdul-Musawwir said. "Traditionally, when you think of Muslim art, you think of calligraphy or textiles. My work is more of a modern approach to Islamic art. I am engaging in a visual discussion about the African-American experience though my methods of painting and by using Islamic ideology."

Abdul-Musawwir converted to Islam in 1980 at the age of 19, and his religious beliefs play central themes in his art. He noted that some art critics refer to him as a pioneer in his field, a description that makes him "nervous.'

"It makes me nervous being called a ‘pioneer' because I just want to put my best foot forward to provide proper balance between African-American ideology and culture and creating a body of work that represents my Islamic faith," he said.

Abdul-Musawwir said his mentors at SIUC made it possible for his dreams to become reality.

"I really appreciate the support from former College of Liberal Arts Dean Shirley Clay Scott and School of Art and Design Director Harris Deller," he said. "I feel that SIUC has been very supportive of my work and the leaders allowed me to do extensive research and travel in order to develop a body of work."

"We are always proud when faculty exhibit, especially in metropolitan areas such as St. Louis," Deller said.

"Show Me St. Louis Artists" festival at the Portfolio Gallery and Education Center in St. Louis runs through Aug. 31. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, call 314/533-3323 or visit

Seeking and celebrating faculty excellence are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.