The Fine Art Superheroes perform at Galleries, Opening Receptions, and Arts Festivals.
basil el halwagy | creative projects
15 Channel Center Street, #301.
Fort Point, Boston, MA. 02210
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basil el halwagy | creative projects
Artist Statement: Fine Art Superheroes
I create wearable-performative characters that embody ideals and tell stories.
I started this project in 2010 because I wanted to make characters in my drawings come to life. I create all my characters using a cotton unitard and fabric paint, and various materials for the headpieces. My costumes employ a fine art motif to cultivate a character identity and each character has a unique headpiece as well. I found that I also enjoyed extending these projects into great photographs and unique performances, playing the role of director, installation artist, writer, photographer, mask-maker, seamstress and make up artist at the same time.
I call my characters ‘Fine Art Superheroes’. The Fine Art Superheroes are avatars. Each one embodies an ideal, a value, and a human desire, such as creation, protest, harmony, and transformation. Making the avatars is my way of exploring a creator’s experience, whether it be my own experience, that of my fellows, or an important figure in history.
My characters are complex and visually magnetic. For me, public performances are a way to engage the public and invite them to interact with my work. For my characters, I hope to make them as real as any fictional character can become. Thus, I want the public to see, talk about and remember The Fine Art Superheroes.
As a teacher, I’ve worked with the public in schools for over 9 years. It is important to me that people other than artists and arts administrators see my work. The rest of the public, the sober citizens of the place the artwork is seen, bring with them important conversations about culture, meaning, and how the artwork is relevant to their own lives.
Connections to Comic Genre
In the comic genre, the costume represents the hero’s beliefs and values. Usually the choice of color and design relate to the character’s theme, be they patriotic, mysterious, foreign, or menacing. For ‘fine art superheroes’, color and pattern are vehicles for representing the ideal as a character identity. Just like in comics, having a character is just the beginning. Characters experience trials to become a heroes. My photographs and allows viewers a sense of the trials undertaken, while the performances allow audiences to journey and witness .
The Untitled Man
The Untitled Man marked my first foray into wearable art. I discovered the Untitled Man in 2004 in one of my Black Drawings series, which dealt with the artist’s metamorphosis and process of becoming. My desire was to bring this character out of the drawing and into real life. I started studying medical illustrations of the circulatory system, the nervous system, and others. I used my drawings to generate a new system, a “creatory system” on the body. I painted the motif onto a cotton unitard using fabric paint, and after sculpting a helmet and mask, the costume was finished in 2010.
Electrostar embodies perfect clockwork and harmony in the universe. He is the avatar of synchronicity, spirituality, and pure energy. I lifted Electrostar’s interwoven geometric pattern from a motif found in Arabic architecture. The perfect fit of the star and pentagon shapes represent the idea that all events and elements of the entire universe are perfectly arranged. Electrostar’s body contains dark blue shapes representing space, silver lines representing the paths of the electrons, and light blue glow representing the electron cloud, making electrostar a human sized diagram of how energy creates the illusion of separateness and masks the true vastness of space.
Doñagdeo is an avatar for transformation and growth. The character’s name is borrowed from the book The Kin of Atta are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant. In the book the word donagdeo refers to dreams. The word signifies an effort to avoid dualistic thinking, where one thing, person, or action is totally bad or and another is totally is good. Instead, characters in the book tend to caution the main character, when he is about to commit inadvisable actions, ones that are known to lead to having bad dreams when one is asleep. Donagdeo is the cautionary term for ‘leading to bad dreams’. I augmented the name with an ‘ñ’, because it makes Doñagdeo sound like a female character from Carlos Castaneda’s books on his life with Yaqui Indian sorcerers of northern mexico and the Southwestern USA. In his book, senior sorcerers are referred to with the prefix Don or Doña, if female. In Arabic, El Donia, is the living world itself.
Calligraphy is one of the Middle East's most recognizable art forms. Here the 'harouf' (letters) are strewn about the body, so that the entire body has sound but no particular words are formed. The only word in the whole suit is the word 'no' shown as a لا (meaning ‘no’ or ‘not’) across the chest, and another across the spine of the back. Larger, thicker letters (Long Vowels and Consonants) divide up the body surface, while short vowels (or diacritics) decorate the empty spaces and bring a sense of motif to the costume. The helmet of this hero features the calligraphic “Hoo” meaning “Him (Divine form)” worn on both left and right sides of the head.
This avatar represents the spirit of 'Protest' which has awakened in the Middle East since 2010. In the past 3 years we've seen Middle Eastern governments toppled in response to oppressive practices. Through mass protest and the willingness to say no to injustice, ordinary people have accomplished seemingly impossible feats. Intrigued by the growing amplitude of peoples' political voice in Egypt and the U.S., I developed this superhero suit explore the incredible beauty and power in using political voice to bring about positive change.
But saying “no” is not enough to bring about compassion and understanding amongst people. In sufi spirituality, the "لا" represents denying oneself the indulgences of the ego in order to purify the spirit. The “hoo” of the helmet suggests deference to God, in lieu of condemnation or taking revenge against others.