If you pay attention to ARTSpulse, you’ll probably recognize Särah Nour as one of our most prolific contributors. The MSUM grad student has been providing us with first-hand coverage of exhibition openings for about a year, a contribution we greatly value.
We were delighted to learn that Nour is also a painter who finds influence from her love of animals, current affairs, and the work of local artist Marjorie Schlossman. Her paintings are up through the end of September at Atomic Coffee in downtown Fargo.
We know you as a writer and student. What drives you to also be a visual artist on top of that?
There’s a lot you can do with painting that you can’t do with writing, and vise-versa. I was always told to “show, don’t tell” in my writing classes, but on some level it’s all telling, isn’t it? Even with imagery you’re telling readers how something looks. With paintings you communicate with an image, so it’s all showing. Although writing is my passion, I do need a break from it now and then. It’s a relief to be able to think in terms of visuals rather than agonizing over word choice and sentence structure and all those technicalities. Painting is easier because I don’t analyze it as much. It’s more intuitive.
What inspires you to create the images you choose to present?
These paintings in particular were mostly inspired by my passion for animals. I recently sold one of them on Etsy—“Raju as Weeping Ganesh.” You might have heard of Raju, the Indian elephant who was rescued from his abusive owner by Wildlife SOS. He was all over the news for a while. When I painted him, I modeled him after Ganesh, the Hindu deity of wisdom, who’s depicted as either an elephant or a man with an elephant’s head. A woman in the Netherlands saw the painting on my Facebook page, and she was moved enough by his story to want to buy it. To me that’s what art should be about: bringing together people who share the same passions.
Another news headline that caught my attention this year was the case of the 200-some Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Because I’m into animal symbolism, my painting “Bring Back Our Girls” depicts the Nigerian coat of arms. The horses represent dignity and pride, and the eagle represents strength.
Most of the other paintings don’t really have a deeper meaning to them. “Stonehenge is for the Birds” was inspired by my trip to Stonehenge back in 2010. I saw that a lot of birds—ravens in particular—had built their nests on it, and that was a pretty striking image to me. There’s nothing else to it, really.
Do your writing and painting influence each other, or do you view them as separate activities?
About three years ago I took a painting class at the Plains Art Museum, and the teacher, Marjorie Schlossman, used writing metaphors to help me understand the basic rules of visual art. A sentence can be thrown off by the wrong word choice, just as a painting can be thrown off by a color or a shape that doesn’t belong. They’re definitely separate activities, but I think some of the same principles apply.
What role do you see visual art playing in your future?
I certainly hope to continue with it. My long-term goal is to earn some success from writing, but if painting takes me somewhere, I’d be open to that.
You’ve been recapping visual art shows for ARTSpulse for a while now. What artists have inspired you through that experience?
Most recently I recapped the reception and poetry reading with Nancy Losacker and Norma Wilson at the Spirit Room. It made me think about the intersections between the different art forms, and how read a poem could inspire a visual art piece, or a visual art piece can inspire a poem.
Images courtesy of the artist.