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Samia Halaby: Eye Witness

“How am I going to catch this experience in a painting?”
—Samia Halaby

June 29, 2024–December 15, 2024
Opening Reception: September 13, 2024

About the Exhibition

Samia Halaby: Eye Witness follows Samia Halaby’s (b. Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine, 1936) creative journey to experiment with the ways painting conveys her experiences and reflects how she sees the world around her. Halaby’s paintings, which range from miniature to monumental, 2D to 3D, and monochrome to multicolor, are notably shaped by her experiences, and shift accordingly throughout her itinerant career across the Midwest, the East coast, and the Arab world. As a self-described painter of her time, Halaby also explores how technology can enhance and transform painting. Her experimentations thus render new approaches to capturing ephemeral moments. Halaby’s paintings reflect a life of witness, one we are invited to take part in by looking slowly and closely at the artist’s work.

The origins of Halaby’s painterly trajectory are rooted right here in Michigan State University. From 1959 to 1960, Halaby attended MSU and earned her MA. It was at MSU that she began painting in earnest with oil on canvas, first making textural, abstract paintings filled with vibrant fields of color. Her earliest teachers were American abstract painters like Ralf Henricksen, John de Martelli, and Charles Pollock, against which Halaby crafted her own artistic voice. After leaving MSU, Halaby received her MFA from Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1963. She later returned to Michigan and taught at the University of Michigan from 1967–69, where the spaciousness of her studio in the nearby town of Dexter allowed her to make larger paintings—a immense scale that now defines her work.

Eye Witness will be Halaby’s first return to MSU since her graduation over sixty years ago, and will feature some of the paintings she made during her time here. As the first ever American survey of her work, we invite you to join us as we pay homage to one of the most important and prolific painters of a generation, and an esteemed MSU alumna.

Samia Halaby: Eye Witness is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Rachel Winter, Assistant Curator, with support from Thaís Wenstrom, Curatorial Research and Administrative Assistant, and Laine Lord, Museum Practicum Student and Curatorial Intern. This exhibition is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Eli and Edythe Broad Endowed Exhibitions Fund.

Additional Media

Interested in learning more? The exhibition’s accompanying book, Samia Halaby: Centers of Energy (2024), is available for purchase in the museum store. Samia Halaby: Centers of Energy celebrates the first-ever American survey of her work by exploring overlooked aspects of her artistic practice, including her time in the Midwest, and features a new essay by Halaby about her digital artistic practice. Published by Hirmer Publishers.

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