The Invisible Man in a Fluorescent Suit

Aya Tarek, an Egyptian graffiti artist and muralist, completed a mural at USFCAM during a residency at USF. In an interview with Aya, I was able to discuss the influences she drew from while making her work. Aya explained her interest in architecture and the experience of connecting to what’s around her. When it came to her artistic process she explained how she never sketches before she comes to a space because her inspiration comes from what’s around her. Her mural, The Invisible Man in a Fluorescent Suit, displayed at USFCAM, has a palette of soft blue and greens with a striking neon orange geometric shape, which she explained came from her freestyle that allowed her to explore this process of creating an abstract work.

posePhoto by Mark Zbikowski

Art2Action sponsored THIS Bridge: Arab, Middle Eastern & Muslim Artists, a series of events to help bring awareness of Arabic and Middle Eastern culture from September 25 through October 1. In this series, Art2Action hosted the film Microphone, shown in the Oval Theater at USF on Monday, September 28.

Microphone, a fiction/documentary, was released in 2010 just before the Egyptian revolution in 2011. In the film, Aya played herself as a struggling artist in Alexandria among many other artists challenged by the restrictions on art in Egypt. As a viewer, it was inspiring to see these underground artists come together to express their art in different ways. Often in the film the artists were in constant pursuit of their talents, both for the sake of creating art and to understand the pursuit as something bigger than themselves. Since the film was released before the uprising of the Egyptian revolution there were many political undertones. When I spoke to Aya on her experience during the revolution she stated, “When we had the revolution I got really disappointed because things don’t happen the way you expect it to be.” Aya explained her mixed feelings from fear to anger, seeing the violence that not only affected her, but her friends and family. “I stopped making art” Aya said, “I stopped thinking about art. I was thinking about the future.”

wall shotPhoto by Mark Zbikowski

During the Q&A after the film, Aya spoke about how fortunate she was to have a family that was supportive of her art. She talked about how she had faced rejection most of her life and emphasized how brave her mother was to always push her to follow her heart. Her grandfather was a painter so her mother was raised by an artist. Aya emphasized how lucky she was to have such support and stressed that there were people who did not grow up with this. Aya was also very passionate about Alexandria and how strong the people from her home were. “People are very talented and very inspiring in their own way.”

cranePhoto by Mark Zbikowski

In the process of her mural, Aya was assisted by a group of USF students who helped her complete the mural for the premiere at USFCAM on October 1. Mark Zbikowski, an MFA student at USF who assisted Aya said, “Having the opportunity to work with Aya has changed my perception as an artist. She has opened me up to a few styles that I never thought I would come around to. I am usually strictly an oil painter but being able to see her work, get inside her head and hear her ideas, has changed my approach to painting.”

tarek group shotPhoto by Mark Zbikowski

Aya continues to push the boundaries in her work to express the world around her. Aya’s mural, The Invisible Man in a Fluorescent Suit, will be displayed outside of USFCAM through December 12.

Jiesha Stephens
English Undergraduate
USFCAM Intern Writer

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