May First Friday: Nidaa Aboulhosn’s “Conatus. Every Day.”

By Steve Jansen

Nidaa Aboulhosn dabbles in many things. She’s a fine art photographer whose work has been featured at various downtown art spaces, a freelance commercial shutterbug, a professional photographic retoucher, and she also works a day gig at a metal fabrication shop.

She’s also a Lebanese woman who was greatly affected by the 2006 bombings in her home country since most of her family and friends were forced to live through the turmoil.

Aboulhosn’s upcoming exhibit “Conatus. Every Day.” features 20 12-by-18-inch color images shot in Lebanon in 2005 (just before the military conflict) as well as December 2007 and January 2008. The beautiful images take more of a fine art perspective on the wartorn regions of Lebanon rather than a documentary slant.

New Times chatted with Aboulhosn by phone about an hour before she was to hang her show, which opens tomorrow with a First Friday reception.

New Times: Tell me a little bit more about the exhibit.

Nidaa Aboulhosn: Originally, the idea was to photograph indoor spaces, particularly women’s spaces such as kitchens and laundry rooms. But when I started shooting, I found myself doing something completely different.

NT: What made you change your mind?

NA: Basically, the hardest thing for me happened in 2006 because I was living [in Phoenix] and all of my family and friends were back home [in Lebanon] and there was war that summer. When I went back to Lebanon last winter, everybody wanted to know if I was going to document the destruction and bring awareness to what happened and the violence that took place. That’s not what I was interested in. Instead, I wanted to bring an awareness of how resilient the people are and how they must move on, regardless with what’s on the news or what’s happening outside of their homes.

NT: What inspired the exhibit title?

NA: I was trying to look for a word or a phrase that describes how life moves on regardless of the circumstances. I found the word conatus, which is Latin for “the will to live” or “the will to continue to exist.”

NT: What the heck is going on in the image [pictured above] with the cement block?

NA: I don’t really have a story. I just love all of the different interpretations. Everyone that sees it says, “What is that?”

NT: I have no idea what it is either.

NA: That’s why I love it. It’s such a bizarre image. To me, it shows all of these things that you come across in Beirut because it’s such a place of juxtapositions, unexpected things, and chaos. You never know what’s going on. It’s not very boring or conventional in any way.

NT: Have you shown this work before?

NA: No, not this particular series, though I did show some images at the [now defunct] Redeye Gallery. I also projected a slideshow put to music outside of The Kitchenette during the height of the bombing. It was my way of coping.

Nidaa Aboulhosn’s “Conatus. Every Day.” opens with a First Friday artist’s reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 2 at @Central Gallery at the Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 North Central Avenue. The show hangs through May 29. Admission is free. Call 602-256-3521.

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Steve Jansen
Contact: Steve Jansen