Chicago painter leaves mark in United Arab Emirates
American artist Anastasia Mak is known for her bright expressionist paintings of world destinations, including Rome, Istanbul, Paris, and her home Chicago.
Thanks to collaboration between Al Qasimi Foundation and the U.S. Mission in the United Arab Emirates, she can now add UAE-inspired works to her portfolio, having spent a week promoting arts and culture throughout northern corner of the country.
Mak began her time in the Emirates at a weekend-long 2015 Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Fine Art Festival (that took place February 19-22), where she was a featured guest artist.
In RAK, she also found the time to explore the historic ghost village of Al Jazirat Al Hamra, which she then channeled into one of her destination pieces. In her signature geometric style, she brought an abandoned guard tower and one of the oldest mosques in the emirate to life in front of guests during a live painting session at the festival’s visual art exhibition.
Following the festival, Anastasia spent several days participating in youth art outreach programs. Visiting two RAK boys’ schools, Mak worked alongside teenage students who are part of the Foundation’s Hand On Learning Program, designed to engage kids that are at risk of dropping out. She helped the boys construct murals on their school campuses.
In just 4.5 hours of painting time, each school’s blank wall was transformed to a colorful depiction of local scenery. As boys painted mosques, mountains, and trees, they were learning the techniques first-hand and experienced the planning and patience often involved by creative endeavors. Art lessons are uncommon for most Emirati secondary students, and such mural projects help boys in building self-discipline and self-confidence.
Anastasia then traveled to the emirate of Fujairah and delivered a talk and pencil drawing demo to undergraduate women at Higher Colleges of Technology. There, she chatted with female college students about artist life in the U.S., and demonstrated to class how to draw proportions of a face.
“This trip was such an incredible opportunity,” says Mak. “Despite some language and cultural differences, I connected with so many adults and students through color, brushes and pencils, and that feeling is very addictive! I encourage every artist to seek out a project abroad, because the rewards are most fulfilling. I came to the Emirates as a representative of the art community and left as an admirer of the land and its people.”