Featured Artist: Baha Omary Kikhia
About the Artist
Baha Omary Kikhia is a Syrian born artist who has spent most of her adult life in New York, Paris and Virginia. At the age of 12, her family moved to Cairo, Egypt. Her father, noticing her talent for art, enrolled her in a small art school there.
Later, in her teens, Baha was apprentice to a famous artist in Damascus, Syria. During that time, she gained confidence in her artistic style and found a passion in creating unique pieces of art.
Her artwork is inspired by women in the Arab world: the social challenges they face and their position as powerful creators and revolutionaries -- whether they are aware of their power or not.
She is also inspired by a belief that religions, though they appear contrasting and vastly different, all share the same yearning for connection between people.
Baha's paintings of old cities, in which the three Abrahamic religions are presented as temples, side-by-side, underlie this belief - that we are all searching for one another.
Baha's Life and Its Effect on Her Work
While studying art in Baghdad, Iraq, Baha became friends with many women who were beautiful -- inside and out. However, when they left college at the end of the day, they would cover themselves with the abaya, a large square of fabric draped from the shoulders or head.
Baha was disturbed and affected by this. She wanted to know why they had to cover their beauty. While in university, this empowered her to study women for her graduation project. For her project, she focused on transparent veils, covering nude women.
Baha's decision to paint was also affected by the kindness of a stranger in the 1970's in New York City. As a timid, young woman, she exhibited her paintings on the city streets. One day, a woman approached her and told her that she should paint on large canvases so that the world could know the beautiful feelings that she expressed through her art. The woman told her that her work brought new "spices" to the city and she should be proud of her work and of her roots.
From then on, Baha committed to three artistic themes: old cities, spice markets and women.
"When people look at my art, I want them to feel happy, no matter what the subject of the art is," Baha says.