David Najib Kasir Selling Paintings for Palestine Emergency Relief

David Najib Kasir is a contemporary oil painter, muralist and curator whose work often reflects personal narratives containing themes such as identity, family, home, love and loss. His current series “Multiplying the Rubble in Landscapes,” started in 2020, depicts Syrian environments resulting from the ongoing war. With the current atrocities occurring in Gaza, Kasir has committed to donating all proceeds from sold paintings to Palestinian relief funds. He is selling pieces from previous 30x30x30 exhibitions he did at Var Small Works Gallery. 

Born and raised in the Chicago area, David Najib Kasir attended college at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) and has been doing art full-time for about 20 years.

Kasir is Syrian-Iraqi Arab and spent time in Syria as a child. “We would go back and forth in the summers visiting,” he remembers. “I have a relationship with family and the environment over there, and a few years ago I really started changing the course of my work to focus on Syria, taking in a lot from America’s involvement in Iraq beforehand. Even though I was very vocal at the time about Iraq, this was a little different just because I’ve never been there. When everything started happening in Syria, it felt a lot more personal; I started seeing images of places I’ve been to or streets I’ve walked or people who looked like my neighbors.”

Ignored by Media

He recalls how the ongoing crisis in Syria was largely being ignored by the media and that he wanted people to understand American involvement in it. “I wanted Americans to take responsibility, and to stop dismissing Arab lives in general,” he continues. “When people would watch the news and hear about how many people died from American attacks, they’d just say “OK” and change it to the next channel and keep eating dinner. Arabs have been dehumanized for decades and decades. That’s how you get to where we’re at now—people just accept it, as long as they aren’t white. That’s the way I took it.”

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“Multiplying the Rubble in the Landscapes” contains imagery of the war-torn buildings in Aleppo, layered with Arab mosaics to show a structure of culture at its breaking point. Kasir is currently taking a break from creating new pieces in the series; he has made about 15 of them so far. “It’s a slow build because each piece takes so much time,” he shares. “I put them on panels I design and cut them by hand using a jigsaw. I try to create an element of distance in the piece, so once it’s up, it looks like it’s in a spacious environment and not flat.”

Kasir makes it clear that when people look at these paintings, they are looking at Syria—not Palestine. “I understand how Americans see it,” he notes. “Americans think Arabs are all a monolith when we’re not. I get the ignorance, but I’ll take advantage of that; if you’re looking at my images—even though they’re about Syria – and they make you think of Iraq or Palestine, I’ll take it.”

That said, his priority is for people to identify with the figures in his work, emphasizing, “I want you to see your face. I want you to see your child’s face. I want you to see your parents’ faces. I want you to recognize the situation that the people are involved in.”

Creating Awareness

He used photo transfers of figures into his encaustic work for the 30x30x30 pieces. “It was a different approach for me at that time,” Kasir said. “They are a bit more graphic, and I understand that makes them harder to sell, but I wanted to be honest about what was happening.”

When the siege on Gaza began in October, Kasir acted quickly in order to help those in need. “I’ll do whatever I can to create awareness,” he affirms. “Palestine isn’t Syria, but there is this kind of common trauma we all share from American involvement in war and violence over there. I’m just an artist; I don’t know how to save lives or bring people to safety, but I can use my work to help with emergency aid, so I will.”

Kasir had previously sold paintings to donate for relief from the Turkey-Syria earthquakes that occurred last February. “Although things I say are harsh about the American public and how they view us, there are plenty of American people who are also helping,” he makes clear. “I appreciate the friends I have and the community I’ve built who have shared the work and have helped me create awareness.”

Those interested in purchasing a painting may contact Var Small Works Gallery at @varsmallworks.

Visit David Najib Kasir’s website at davidnajibkasir.com and Instagram at @davidnajibkasir.

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