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Heartwood: The Art of Humaira Abid

July 1, 2014

Humaira Abid is chiseling a carefully selected piece of wood. She stops and examines the object thoughtfully, resting her hand next to an assortment of carving knives, chisels and hammers, placed neatly on her low worktable. The piece she is carving is for an upcoming exhibit.

Abid is a sculptor and painter. Based in the Seattle area, she spends several months out of each year in Lahore, Pakistan, where she grew up and still maintains her main studio. Her work is a reflection of her experiences in both countries. The walls of her Seattle studio are lined with bins full of everyday objects carved masterfully in wood. Pacifiers — hundreds of them — stained red, black, cherry; wooden chains, painstakingly carved and assembled one link at a time; baby bottles molded with curves soft enough for a baby’s hands — all pieces from her last series called “Red.”

Humaira Abid in her studio in Seattle, WA.

“That series, I have done after I had multiple miscarriages,” she explains. After going through the traumatic experience more than once, she learned how difficult it was for women to speak about.

“In (Pakistani) society, if you have a miscarriage, people think there is something wrong with you,” she says. “So women stopped talking about it.”

Abid wanted to talk about her experience. So she did in the way she knew best — through art. It is a theme that resonates through most of her work, making her viewer come face-to-face with the unspoken yet daily pressures of womanhood — pressures that, Abid believes, exist regardless of cultural boundaries.

Abid works in two very different mediums: miniature painting, which is “small and two-dimensional,” and sculpture, “generally larger in scale and three-dimensional.” She studied both art forms in Lahore at the National College of Arts, Pakistan’s oldest and best-known art school. The institute has produced some of Pakistan's best known artists.

While her family didn’t at first understand her choice to study art — they didn’t consider being an artist a viable profession — they have since become very supportive and accepting of her work. This attitude shift is something that Abid is noticing in her country more and more. She believes that artists finding success abroad, including herself and those who paved the way for her, has helped open doors for a new generation of Pakistani artists.

As she assembles the piece for her upcoming series, she smiles. “I enjoy doing things that people think are not possible or are very difficult.” It’s that challenge that made her select sculpture as her primary art form in the first place and it’s what still drives her to keep pushing the boundaries in her art.

SUPPORTED BY

Laila Kazmi

@Lailakaz — Laila Kazmi is an award-winning senior producer and writer at KCTS 9. Her first love is discovering and telling stories of diverse people, places, and history. She has lived in Karachi, Bahrain, Chicago, and Seattle. Laila is the series producer for Borders & Heritage, which features stories of immigrant and refugee experience in the Pacific Northwest and for Reel NW, featuring independent films from and about the Pacific Northwest. She also produces stories for IN Close and produced for PIE. Laila's video stories have appeared on KCTS 9, PBS NewsHour Art Beat, World Channel at WGBH, and KPBS. Her articles have been published in PBS NewsHour Art Beat, The Seattle Times, Seattle PI, COLORLINES, and Pakistan's daily Dawn.

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