Mazen Abufadil and his family left West Beruit, Lebanon in 1978 due to the civil war. Fast forward and his work is now on display in Americans All! alongside art icons including the likes of Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt. A self-proclaimed American dream come true, learn how one local immigrant, and his family, have enriched Tulsa in more ways than one.
Q: How did your family land in Tulsa after leaving Beirut?
A: Initially fleeing to the French West-Indies for a year, we managed our way to Tulsa through the help of an uncle who had settled in Oklahoma after attending college in Edmond. We were forced back to Lebanon, but only for a short period, and in the late 70s we were allowed to reside in Tulsa qualifying for refugee status.
Q: How did you become an artist?
A: Like so many young children, I was exposed to drawing, painting and craft in grade school. I was obsessively drawn to working with my hands and could think of little more enjoyable than spending my day using tempera paints or modeling clay.
Q: Your work in Americans All! uses a photo-fresco technique. What is photo-fresco?
A: Photo-fresco, a term I coined, is a hybrid transfer process using “wet” pigment prints applied to a slaked lime plaster. While working in both photography and printmaking, I became as intrigued by the surface and form of the paper as I was by the image on it. This fascination, in conjunction with my time in Florence, Italy, where I was forced to source discarded materials for my crafts due to limited financial resources, contributed to the development of the technique.
Q: What was your relationship with Gilcrease prior to being asked to exhibit in this show?
A: My first visit to Gilcrease was as a young immigrant with hardly a word of English in my vocabulary. I was in awe of the multitude of colors, forms and sublime space surrounding me. Since then, I’ve continued to visit and have always been amazed by the diversity of the collection, beauty of the grounds and the evolving exhibition space.
Q: What do you hope visitors walk away with after viewing Americans All!?
A: I hope that visitors will consider viewing all displayed work first and foremost as art, and then as representative of the individual desires of each of the exhibiting artists regardless of their ethnicity or cultural backgrounds. Additionally, I hope they view the work as representing the breadth of human experiences and of stories, past and present, being told.
Learn more about Abudafil’s work and process by watching “Entry Point,” available both in the Americans All! exhibition and online at gilcrease.org/americansall.