Artist Shokoor Khushrawy feels happy and safe living in the United States. As an Impressionist painter of life in his native Afghanistan, he was not a favorite of the notoriously anti-art Taliban. (Khushrawy notes that the terrorist group responsible for smashing historic Buddhist statues in Afghanistan also destroyed hundreds of paintings in the national gallery.) So he left for Pakistan, staying until 2002, when he returned to Afghanistan. But the Taliban still had his number, so three years ago he emigrated to America, where he now paints and teaches.
His endeavors are centered in Pleasanton's Little Gallery, on Main Street. "Little" is right! His gallery consists of a large closet in a retail building. He also has access to the entryway and the staircase. But in that relatively confined space, he has dozens of his works on display; many more are stored in the closet. He also manages to teach therefour students total, two at a time. He also has use of the building's balcony for instruction.
With a fine arts degree from the University of Kabul, Khushrawy has been painting for 32 years. He says that when he first entered school, his teacher asked him, "What can you do?" "I can draw," was his response. Years later a dozen of his paintings hang in the national gallery in Kabul, solicited, he says, by President Karzai. n
Khushrawy now characterizes his style as Impressionist and cites Monet and van Gogh as two major influences. Another influence is older brother Bismil, also an artist, who lives in Reims, France. "Bismil was an artist, and I followed him," says the younger Khushrawy. Another brother, Jelani, lives in the States. (For more, see http://artafghan.com/artafghan/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Itemid=48)
While still in his native country, Khushrawy had an exhibit at a military base there. He has also shown his work in Germany, and since his arrival in the US, he has exhibited in San Francisco and Arizona. He has occupied the Little Gallery for about nine months and has sold paintings from that venue. He has also sold a piece at Peace Lutheran Church in Danville, where some of his work is on display through November (for more on art at Peace, see below). The name of this sanctuary reflects Khushwary's current state of mind: "I needed peace, and I'm safe here [in this country."
Much of the work on display at Peaceand other paintings as welldepicts everyday life in Afghanistan. Khushrawy says he hopes his work will serve as a bridge between Eastern and Western art. His language skills already do. With varying degrees of fluency, he speaks Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, English, and German. He has written a book in Farsi for which he hopes to find a publisher.
As he surveys his tiny Pleasanton venue, he observes: "My closet is small, but my heart is big."
Art of the Spirit
Shokoor Khushrawy met local artist Bill Carmel in Pleasanton. It was Carmel who arranged Khushrawy's exhibit at Peace Lutheran and helped him prepare it. As Carmel notes, "This exhibit is open to the public and part of an ongoing series of exhibitions devoted to showcasing individual and group exhibitions of artists who work with spiritual ideas and themes." The idea is twofold, he explains: to be as inclusive and open as possible and to employ the visual arts as a bridge to understanding diversity and facilitating conversation.
Peace Lutheran Church, 3201 Camino Tassajara in Danville, is "a house of prayer for all people," Carmel continues. "The church is an active participant in the interfaith community, and the exhibits are an extension of that outreach and practice of inclusion."
The church will feature a free jazz concert on Sunday, November 3, at 5:00 P.M., featuring Grupo Brasiliando, with Mary D'Orazi. A reception for Khushrawy and the band will follow at 6 p.m. All are welcome.
John A. Barry is a writer and trAction Painting exponent. To share anything art-related or to pitch a story idea, call him at 925-918-7882 or e-mail [email protected]