The Genius of Rana Ghassan

The Want, Will, and Hopes of Palestinians
By Omar Ahmad

In the art world there are two types of genius. There are those, whose technical methodology and precision yields brilliant works yet leads other artists feeling that they could have done the same if they only worked hard enough. Then, there are the "magicians," whose source of inspiration is so baffling, that nobody else could ever do what they do. Namely, portray an emotion with a few brushstrokes so well, that any viewer would be able to feel the powerful meaning behind a work. Palestinian artist Rana Ghassan, I firmly believe, is of this caliber.

Every composition of Ghassan reflects an incredible symphony of powerful emotions. She masterfully brings together elements of accurate drawing, mood coloration, and phenomenal composition. Her paintings never feel over saturated or "busy"; rather, she captures subtle emotions sometimes hidden within a live scene or photograph, and expresses the struggle of life under oppression in an inspiring light of courage and struggle. There are never unnecessary elements strewn around.

One of Rana's talents is her sublime way of taking complex pictures, whether from actual life or photographs, and "bringing out" emotions latent within them by changing the level of details and colors and applying the appropriate watercolor wash to establish mood. "Most of my work focuses on the positive emotions of a negative scene," explained Rana "some artists who choose to focus on Palestinian themes concentrate on the oppressors, which results in morbid, dark, and although very powerful and remarkable, nonetheless gloomy scenes. History has shown us that it is our darkest hours which provide us with the contrasting background for the brightest light of hope and inspiration. I try to capture this in my work."

Her most famous work, "David and Goliath" which will undoubtedly take its place besides the great remembered works of history, will put Palestine on the map next to Italy and France as a center for great artistic expression. Most recently, this masterpiece has been featured in TIG magazine and won honorable mention in the Global Gallery international art competition in July of 2004.

Indeed, Rana loves to exalt the oppressed. In "David and Goliath," A young boy is holding a few stones behind his back which are colored in the colors of the Palestinian flag. There are characters in the distance which have a removed quality. It cannot be made out if they are his oppressors, or the boys whom he wishes to join. His courage and stealth are masterfully portrayed. He is frozen in time and thought and stands waiting for his opportune moment.

"Rana's work aims towards the poetic expression of courage, strength, and hope amidst an atmospheric feeling of injustice," explained Mali Ishtewi, CEO of Illuminocity, Rana's publisher. "The litmus test of her effectivity and utter genius is evidenced in the numerous unsolicited letters we receive from the artist's admirers around the world. Her paintings are definitely not exclusive to the Palestinian struggle. We have had an inordinate amount of orders from Ireland, and other areas of the earth where people have fought similar oppression and tyranny. A Yakima Native American elder from a reservation in Washington state commented to us that the image captured the spirit and plight of his own people in an almost mystical way. The painting has come to symbolize a grass-roots global struggle of individual rights against the oppression of a powerful state. In Rana's own words, she wishes to portray the rights of human beings as being inherent by birth, not granted or dictated by any group. Her paintings almost always focus on a single individual which is usually a child. The Palestinian flag is just a modicum of the individual's identity. The Palestinian flag represents every human on the globe who has struggled against the oppression of a powerful state which denies him/her the right to be an individual, and the right to exist as a free, independent human being."

In every field of art, whether it is movies, music, or visual art, there is a wide chasm between excellent compositions, and masterpieces which inspire us towards improving the human condition. Rana Ghassan crosses this chasm by reaching a higher level of expression for the basic human right of self determination. She dramatically uses the colors of the Palestinian flag to symbolize the right to self determination, i.e., "liberty".

Since the creation Israel, there has been a concerted effort to deny the Palestinian people the right to exist beyond miserable neocolonial cantons. Systematically underreported in mainstream media, the calls by Palestinian leadership for dialogue all have been blatantly ignored for the last 50 years. More accurately, Palestinian leadership itself was effectively denied to exist. Israeli leadership refused to even acknowledge a partner for the peace process, let alone engage in one. "Very few know the full extent of the horrors faced by my people," commented Rana. "The practice of rejecting Palestinians as human beings, which continues unabated to this day, originates from the deepest and darkest recesses of the soul, where fellow mankind is dehumanized- unworthy of even dialogue. To deny a human being the right to exist is to go much lower than an animal. Only then can sickening brutality occur- merciless beatings and shocking belligerence against innocent men, women and children. The majority of my work is in response to this insidious and blatant rejection of our humanity and identity. We will not cease to be. To those who criticize my paintings, I ask, why has truth become an offense to you? If you deny my work, you deny the right to acknowledge oppression, and the courage and strength we have gained. Palestinian freedom, hope, and strength does not need anyone's approval. I am Palestinian. Anyone who feels this way is a Palestinian."

The message of Rana's artwork is so essentially captured in a document over 200 years old. The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, which most know by text, but not by spirit, bears repeating, again and again:

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…."

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