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Ammanda Seelye Salzman   Artist in Fairfield County, CT
paintings mixed media about the artist contact website

Artist's Statement Paintings

My most recent paintings have been inspired by a return trip in 1997 to the Middle East, where I grew up. I found myself inspired by Islamic architecture, art and design, incorporating this aesthetic into my silk-screened paintings. In particular, I was struck by the mysterious beauty of the mashrabiya, a type of Islamic oriel window enclosed with ornate carved wood latticework. One of the main features of the mashrabiya is to create privacy for women, an essential aspect of Arabic culture. Through its intricate carvings, the occupant can look at the outside world without being seen, preserving the private interior. Both the abstract ornamentation of the mashrabiya, as well as its reference to female identity inspired me and it is this juxtaposition between form and function that I explore in my work.

Overall, my paintings are a conflation of several meditations – art and culture, the traditional and the contemporary, East and West. Through compressed layering I reference ancient Islamic art and architecture, but also wish to create a visual tension through symmetrical subdivision. Through unifying all of these elements, I recreate the experience of looking out through this screen – darkness and light inexorably exist as the geometric designs that inspire me are layered to enhance, not disguise, allowing them to appear illuminated in the dark. I want to produce a spiritual luminosity through repetition and balance. By doing so, the viewer is immersed in harmony, transported to a place of serene contemplation behind the gentle protection of the mashrabiya. The mashrabiya, for me, is a window to the unseen, and it is only in this intangible, spiritual place, that serene contemplation can occur.

I would like to thank master printer, Chris Shore of The Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT for all his help with the silk screening.

Artist's Statement Mixed Media

American artist Ammanda Seelye Salzman grew up in the Middle East steeped in a family history which began in the Arab world in the mid-1800s. Ancestors Frederic and Sarah Williams set sail for Mount Lebanon from Upstate New York in 1848 as part of a growing American mission movement to spread “Yankee” values. Subsequent generations returned to the region as academics, diplomats and journalists. The artists see their family’s long history in the region through the lens of a complex, always evolving relationship between America and the Arab world.

Salzman has mined her 164-year old family history to explore the implications of cross-cultural encounters and the charged nature of East-West relations. The mixed media collages, based on old family photos, depict the first exchanges between Americans and Arabs, usually in the form of encounters between missionaries and local Christians. Those evolved as Americans set up educational institutions like the American University of Beirut (AUB) in 1866, which advocated independent and critical thinking. There, Laurens Seelye, the artists' grandfather, taught philosophy in the 1920s and ‘30s and encouraged his students to rebel against French rule. Later generations of the artists’ family turned to diplomacy as a key tool in building the Arab-American relationship, while the fifth generation - disenchanted by the failures of American foreign policy - turned to journalism in an effort to interpret the Arab world for Americans.

Coloring the Past culls from family photos and letters, super-8 family footage, and materials from the family archive, including exams given by the artists’ grandfather to his AUB classes, YMCA fliers distributed in the Arab world in the ‘30s, and newspaper articles reflecting the foreign policy crises that characterized the later Arab-American relationship. Through these materials Ammanda Seelye Salzman and Kate Seelye tell an intimate story about one family’s enduring connection to the Middle East and its impact on their own sense of identity and belonging.


Bio

Born in Amman, Jordan, Ammanda Seelye Salzman grew up between the Middle East and the United States, an experience that informed her worldview, as well as her artistic subject matter. While a student at Hampshire College, Seelye Salzman held her first exhibition in Tunisia in 1976. There she used her exposure to North African Culture and Society with her reading of post-colonial criticism to produce large oil paintings based on her observations of North Africa. Graduating from Hampshire College in 1975 with her Bachelor of Arts, during her later studies at the Art Student's League (1978-79) as well as the National Academy of Design in New York City (1989-91), Seelye Salzman focused on the nude, where she explored the nuances of identity politics and the very center of human consciousness.

In 1997, Seelye Salzman graduated from The Heatherley School of Fine Art in London with a portrait degree, during which time she was inspired by the work of Lucien Freud and other contemporary British portrait painters. Upon completion of the two-year program, Seelye Salzman won the Heatherley's Portrait Award. In 1997, she exhibited her work at Heatherley's Fine art Gallery in London, as well as the Luchsinger Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut in 2000. In 2006 she was invited to show several pieces that explored age and sexuality in the show Woman: Self Portrait at Kashya Hildebrand’s then-New York space.

In 2012 Seelye Salzman was invited to exhibit at Abu Dhabi Art as part of the Signature section and in 2013 she exhibited her paintings in Norwalk, Connecticut at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking. More recently, she had an exhibit in Kuwait City, Kuwait in October 2013 with the CAP Gallery. And in December 2013 exhibited her work at Miami Art Basel.

Seelye Salzman lives in Riverside, Connecticut, with her husband and two daughters.

For a detailed resume through December 2014, please click here to download the attached pdf file.

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