Without Traces: Sculpting the heritage of Beirut

Whether we want to admit it or not we live in an era that takes almost everything for granted. There are so many details that are part of our everyday lives that we don’t even acknowledge. They could be things as small as your friend’s new haircut or as big as landmarks being toppled over by lavish new buildings. The saying, “you don’t know what you have until is gone” can be perfectly used to describe our perspective on a lot of subjects. However, we’ve managed to find someone who doesn’t only pay attention to her surrounding details but preserves it as well.

Samar Mogharbel is an artist who is inspired by keeping the memory of what makes Beirut special. When we discovered her latest project “Without Traces” it really blew our mind! She took different landmarks such as the Yellow House and other old buildings throughout Beirut that had meaning and sculpted them out of clay. She portrayed the true essence of these buildings in the beautifully damaged state she last remembered them in. When we spoke with Samar and asked her what inspired her to sculpt all of these buildings her answer hit close to home…literally. Her project first started off as a stop motion film about the memories she had in her old house that was torn down to build a high-rise. She thought it would be better to express her pain through a 3D project, which became the first sculpture in her series. It was a way to really remember and cherish the times she had growing up in the house. Although her home was what triggered the exhibition, Beirut as a city was what finished it off. She said, “Beirut is our city, and when you walk everyday and slowly notice these buildings being brought down, it makes you think, where is the charm? Our beloved city wouldn’t be the same without these houses and buildings.”

portrait with manara

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To really portray these buildings she thought it would be fitting to use clay because that is what houses back in the day were actually made of. To really give it the effect she used different glazes, oxide, and silt. Aside from her home, the process of choosing which buildings to recreate was based on the visual challenge she saw in each building. She didn’t want to take the easy way out and just make walls on the inside; she elaborated her designs and made complex interiors such as stairs and rooms to make you feel like you are actually inside the house. In addition to being accurate she made sure that each building she made was recognizable with her own twist. Since she can’t really manage to see every angle of each building, she uses her imagination on the parts she can’t see, finishing each building the way she thinks matches the rest of it.

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What inspires Samar as an artist is anything that is able to really shock her. She describes herself as an artist with a cause and she enjoys pinpointing certain things and turning them into eternal pieces. She fell in love with 3D art and hasn’t touched anything to do with color or flat painting. She says, “It just isn’t me.” She expresses that the clay she uses is something permanent, once it is fired up there is no way you can adjust it. She likes the idea of clay being able to be a part of history, because the pieces of art that are being made will outlive us all and will tell stories for generations to come.

Aside from being a visionary sculptor Samar is also a ceramics teacher at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. She is currently thinking of entering an extremely complex and challenging area as her next project but it takes extensive planning and thinking. We will have to keep in touch and stay tuned!

To see more of Samar’s work, visit her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ceramics.lau

 

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