"One day, I dug deep and thought about what I enjoyed doing before I took on financial responsibilities," Shabana Kauser says. "I went through my childhood, and one thing stood out over and over again: It was art!"
Kauser had to find an avocation to pursue when her husband's career brought them to Northwest Arkansas in 2008. Her visa didn't allow her to work in information technology and management, which she says left her feeling "disconnected from the community for several years."
"The silver lining with my move to America has been discovering my passion for art and stepping into a creative career."
Kauser's work is on show Saturday through July 6 at the Gallery on Garrison in Fort Smith. She took time to answer these questions for What's Up!
Q. How would you describe your art? And how would you describe yourself as an artist?
A. I'd describe myself as a contemporary artist, sharing my culture and journey through my work.
In 1975, my parents moved from Pakistan-occupied Azad Kashmir, to the suburbs of London. My father worked in the steel industry, and my mother started her own business from home sewing traditional Pakistani clothes. My appreciation of traditional fabrics started there and can be seen in my art today. My work not only references my journey to America, but also of the past, present and future generations of immigrants.
My realistic portraits of South Asian women celebrate traditional clothing, jewelry, features, skin tones and more. The women in my work are looking right at you or straight ahead. The compositions are strong and confident, much like the women that my work honors. Each oil painting is created with several layers of oil paint, each layer adds richness and depth.
Q. What in your early life inspired you to pursue art?
A. I used to enjoy drawing and always looked forward to art classes at school. So [after moving to Fayetteville] I began looking for local art classes and just happened to find an oil painting class starting the following week. I enrolled at the Creative Community Center, just off Dickson Street, [and] took classes from a local artist, Trena Ward. She was and still is a fabulous mentor. I approached the art class with little expectation from myself; my main aim was to learn and enjoy my time. ... Then I was approached to create my first commission. That's when I realized I was capable of doing something very different with my future.
Q. What do you hope viewers see in your art?
A. When people view my work, initially I want them to be drawn in by the details, texture and colors, then absorb themselves in the story of the fabrics and the women. Upon exiting my paintings, my wish is to send the viewer off with hope, the courage to celebrate their uniqueness and tap into the limitless possibilities of life.
WHEN — Saturday through July 6, with an opening reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE — The Gallery on Garrison, 914 Garrison Ave. in Fort Smith
COST — Admission is free; artwork is available for purchase
INFO — shabanakauserart.com