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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Art as a bridge to memories

One of our members and jewelry makers, Omhagain Dayeen, was recently asked to show her sketch and painting work for one month at the headquarters of The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Many thanks to Lonnie Wiens, CDOT IT guru by day, art show curator on the side for making Omhagain’s show possible.

A special thanks is also in order to Leo Livecchi, married to an ALS founder and a somewhat reluctant supporter of A Little Something. He also works at CDOT. It was Leo’s idea to have Omhagain participate in CDOT’s rotating art gallery show.

After a lot of logistical wrangling, the show started to come together today. Lonnie said, “I am honored to have Omhagain’s work here. She’s an amazing artist.”

Lonnie, Omhagain, her husband, Kamal, and a friend, Susan Taylor, were on hand today, hanging pictures, arranging images and hanging the show. In addition, a film crew was getting footage of the action.

As it turns out, the film crew is from the State Department and filming a documentary about Darfuris living in the U.S. Omhagain has worked tirelessly to bring attention to the issues of Darfur, and she donates part of the profits from her art sales to buy clothes and food for refugees currently in Chad.

Omhagain came to the US as a refugee, an artist displaced from the country and culture she treasured. Her early US works reflected her melancholy. They were mostly subdued, technical, and factual images of her memories of home.

Her current work shows a woman who has found hope and joy in those same memories. Figures dance and move in bold colors. Human shapes are round and robust, enjoying a prosperous Sudanese life. The pictures show beauty, color, and vibrant images. They tell a story about Sudan and Omhagain’s love for what she left behind.

Before becoming a refugee, Omhagain had earned her Master’s degree in art education in Sudan. She was both an artist and a teacher. She wove tapestries and designed textiles. She had a passion for both creating and teaching, and it was obvious that she felt the power of art and the creative force.

Omhagain admits that she had to find herself again, both as a woman and an artist, after coming to the United States. She is quick to acknowledge that she got to where she is today with the help of friends and people who took the time to care, to sit, to listen, and to encourage. Ultimately, though, what comes out in Omhagain’s art is her love of faces, color, motion, and the people in her world, past and present.

More than art, Omhagain’s work shows the beauty of a culture now under siege. Perhaps a show in as unlikely a space as CDOT headquarters will help further the conversation about how we are connected to people around the world. Perhaps Omhagain’s art will shed some light on a part of the world that needs as much love and light as can possibly be generated before it can heal.

Omhagain's art is for sale. The exhibit is open to the public during regular business hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Check in at the front desk. The art is displayed on both the first and second floors, in the halls. CDOT is located at 4201 E Arkansas Ave. in Denver. For more information, call 303-757-9011.

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