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Safety Zones & Watermelons

Recent work by David Najib Kasir
June 14th through July 13th, 2024
Opening reception Friday June 14th 6-8pm
Gallery Hours: Wed, Thurs 1-5pm, Sat 12-4pm and by appt.

O+ is honored to present the work of 2021 Alum David Najib Kasir in the O+ Exchange Clinic Gallery. Safety Zones & Watermelons, an exhibition of his recent work, includes several pieces he made while at The Golden Foundation Residency Program this Spring.  

Kasir is a Milwaukee-based painter whose work consists of personal narratives and cultural events. In recent years, Kasir’s work draws on stories from his parents’ journey to the U.S. and the current crises from the region from which they migrated (his mother from Syria, and his father from Iraq). As a U.S. born artist who spent years of his childhood in Syria, Kasir reveals his cultural identity in paint and motifs to inform viewers on the recent wars throughout the Middle East, in hopes of helping them develop an understanding of the millions of voiceless Arabs living in chaos and disarray.

By using beautiful traditional Arab designs called Zellige to surround the figures in his work, Kasir shows the enduring beauty of a culture as well as the undeniable humanity of families that are trying to hold on to their identities, communities and their loved ones as everything around them falls apart as a result of the tragedy of violent conflict.


The events of the last eight months have reinforced my awareness that I live in a country that doesn’t care about Middle Eastern lives, no matter their responsibility or impact on the experience of those lives. In 2014, I started work to enhance my own understanding of the Syrian Civil War and to expose the deliberate denial of global accountability that is made apparent in our media landscape. In the past few years, this sense of a violent omission within western consciousness has never been more glaring. The western world and media have systematically dehumanized Arab lives for decades. And in this time of war in Gaza, that narrative has actively averted the eyes and hearts of many away from the thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians – men, women and so, so many children – who are murdered every day. 

In the past few years, I’ve created images of buildings and neighborhood streets that are like the ones I played on as a child to create an understanding of the human impact and inhumane destruction resulting from the chaos of war and violence. But in this series of work created during The Golden Foundation Residency Program, I wanted the work to confront the viewer directly and painfully with images of people in a time of great horror and uncertainty, The work demands that the viewer see their humanity and understand the consequential moment we live in. I position the audience amid the destruction, separation, and loss of life, as families desperately attempt to stay intact. I envelop the figures in Islamic mosaic motifs, not as a backdrop but to force the viewer to see them through the cultural and historical lens of what the patterns represent. The literal patterns that are integral to the identity, connectivity and survival of these individuals and their communities, get chipped away by the bombardment of violence, in all its forms, just as their own security, homes and families are also destroyed.

David Najib Kasir @davidnajibkasir 

Video: Luke Korver, Emma Golden, Jessica Lea
Credit: The Sam & Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts @golden_art_fdn