features

Memory Gates by Kevork Mourad

Grace Bromage ‘23

Chief Features Editor

In our current world, where we remain isolated from one another, it can be hard to feel connected. However, connectedness and universality are values that Kevork Mourad—a Syrian artist who has collaborated with a variety of famous musicians and institutions—strives to tap into in his current exhibit at the College of the Holy Cross, Memory Gates. This new exhibit, co-sponsored by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery and the Arts Transcending Borders, was created over a 10 day period and explores a variety of different cultures in its calligraphic and collage styles.

I was able to attend one of the “ArtBreak” Q&A sessions with Kevork Mourad. When I attended on Feb. 25 at noon, Mourad was only on his fourth day of working on his piece. The talk featured several different shots of the gallery in its current stage and was attended by about 50 Holy Cross community members.

Mourad started the talk by explaining about his goals for the gallery. He wants it to both inspire people as they move forward in life as well as be a continuation of some of his previous pieces. As the name Memory Gates implies, Mourad uses his own memories from his childhood in Syria but also attempts to create a piece to which all people can apply their memories. He hopes that his gallery can help people “feel the wealth of civilization.” He commented that there is much influence from different cultures in his work and even compared it to a collage of different civilizations where he attempts to merge both historical and contemporary elements. 

In addition to attending the virtual talk, I was able to stop by the Cantor Art Gallery and watch Mourad work in person. While I was grateful for the opportunity to see Mourad’s work on the Zoom call, it was exciting to be immersed in the exhibit and watch it be created in front of me. In the gallery, I understood what Mourad meant by his work being similar to calligraphy or print-making as I watched Mourad paint black shapes on a plastic sheet. While the paint was still wet, Mourad carved shapes into it, creating a pattern that resembled calligraphy, an art form that is important in the Middle East. Mouard then pressed the painted sheet to a large cotton cloth that was hung from the ceiling, printing the design on the cloth. He then returned the sheet to his work table and wiped it down before starting over and continuing with this process. He said that much of this work is intuitive as he tries to unlock memories within his own mind. While it was still a work in progress when I attended the gallery on Tuesday morning, Mourad walked me through what he had created and what the gallery would look like when it was completed on Thursday, March 4.

As Mourad talked me through the plans for the gallery (which will include an animated film and a center tunnel with several openings to allow for unique experiences), he lamented the loss of student interactions with the exhibit being in a virtual setting. He commented that he is a visual person and it can be difficult to convey certain messages about his artwork on a Zoom call. He acknowledges that these virtual connections are important in this new world, but he is brainstorming ways to get more student interactions and voices involved.

For more information about Kevork Mourad’s gallery at Holy Cross, you can visit https://memorygates.holycross.edu/. Mourad’s gallery will be open from March 4 to April 11.

Bottom right photo courtesy of John Buckingham; other photos by Claudia Hajjer ’23

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