America-based artist Halide Salam was born in West Bengal but she was brought up in East Pakistan. While studying in Chattogram she was sent to the United States as her parents feared for her security during the Liberation War. Following the war she failed to manage a Bangladeshi passport initially. Albeit she got her passport later, she failed to arrange an exhibition featuring her artworks here despite being an established artist. Artist Halide Salam, professor of the Department of Painting in Radford University, has finally succeeded in displaying her creations as Galllery Twenty One has organized an exhibition of her artworks. Professor Dhali Al Mamoon, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Chittagong, and art critic Moinuddin Khaled, jointly inaugurated the exhibition on March 1. The exhibition came to an end on March 10. Recently Halide Salam has shared her thoughts about her life and art works with ‘morning tea’.
You are here to attend your first solo exhibition in Bangladesh. Why have you taken so much time?“It was really frustrating for me as I couldn’t exhibit my artworks in my own country for a long period of time. There are reasons behind this. When I went to the United States, I had Pakistani passport but after the Liberation War I couldn’t manage Bangladeshi passport as my birth place was West Bengal. However, I got my Bangladeshi passport in 1980. I came to Bangladesh several times and tried to arrange an exhibition here. As I had little familiarity at that time, no one showed interest. Besides, I like to work in big canvas. Thus my works are hard to carry. That is why I didn’t bring my works of oil painting. I have come only with my drawings. Now I am travelling throughout Bangladesh and planning to exhibit my works extensively.”
How are you doing as an artist and teacher in the USA?
“I have been painting and exhibiting my works in different national and international galleries and museums for many years. I have won numerous awards for my paintings. Recently, I have obtained the Open Call Award 2017 at the Athenaeum in Virginia’s Alexandria for my exhibition ‘GLOW’. My painting ‘Title Withheld No. 6’ was selected by the US Department of State for ‘Art in Embassies Program’ to represent American Artists’ works overseas. Numerous countries and their art collectors have collected my works in large numbers. I have presented lectures and papers on art and art history as a teacher in and outside the United States. My paintings are kind of philosophical query and are to be viewed in another setting. I intuit patterns and structures inherent in nature that speak to the organic creation of personal spaces. As a teacher I teach my students historical and contemporary art practice, theories, criticism, and aesthetics. As a senior faculty member I have taken a leadership role in many committees sharing my experiences and expertise, which have contributed to the success of the art department of my university.”
How do you evaluate contemporary Bangladeshi artworks as an American academician and artist?“I consider myself as a third generation Bangladeshi artist. I am very much fond of Rashid Choudhury not only as my teacher but as an artist. I also like the works of painter Khalid Mahmud Mithu and Rafiqun Nabi. It’s a great thing that Bangladeshi artists are making their mark in international art arena but young artists need to explore those opportunities through pure ideas and modern techniques.”
Most of your artworks are based on spirituality. They are experimental, yet oriental. As an immigrant artist do you feel any obstacle to translate your thinking in the western art arena?
“I cannot hide my identity that I am a Muslim, a Bangladeshi and also an immigrant there. I find inspiration for my artworks from my religious values. It’s like meditation for me to create artwork. I prefer oil painting, because oil medium reflects light better than any other painting medium. I also find satisfaction in making my own pigments from rocks that I collect, as well as creating resin-based oil emulsions from alternate contemporary products. I don’t believe that immigrant artists can truly overcome all the obstacles they have to face. Painting helps me to define and capture specific moments of struggle, and helps portray the spiritual and physiological condition of my experiences.”
Are you planning to do anything more in Bangladesh?
“Now I am planning to arrange an exhibition featuring my oil paintings. I also want to create a cross-cultural platform for Bangladeshi and American young artists and share my knowledge with them.”