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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Art Students Portray Horror and Hope in Works Recalling the Beirut Port Blast

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Editor’s note: This is one of two articles we are posting today to mark the one-year anniversary of the catastrophic explosion that struck Beirut on August 4, 2020. The other is titled “One Year After the Beirut Blast, Technology Keeps Memories Fresh.”

Third-year students from the Faculty of Fine Arts and Architecture at the Lebanese University have had a tough couple of years, like many students around the world. But they had added pressures with a collapsing economy, protests against government, the coronavirus pandemic, and, the final blow, the devastating explosion that rocked Beirut one year ago today. (See a related article, “Beirut Blast Cripples an Educational and Cultural Capital.”)

Many students were unable to attend classes and had to spend their time at home, learning online (if electricity allowed for it).

The Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky once said, “The more frightening the world becomes … the more art becomes abstract.” That cannot be truer for these art students, who took up their brushes and tools, and began creating scenes of destruction and hope from the Beirut port blast.

With the backing of the Lebanese University, their work will be displayed online on the university’s Facebook page in an event to highlight how they were able to express their emotions through their work.

Some paintings show the wreckage of the blast and the gruesome fact that people were mutilated and injured. Other works, like Daya Bou Karoum’s body sculpture made out of metal and cardboard, show “that destruction was not only physical but also psychological,” according to the student.

Another undergraduate, Layal Saloum, took inspiration from Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and painted the fire after the explosion in the same brushstroke style as the Dutch artist, naming it “Scary Night.”

Healing in a Damaged City

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