Wafaa Bilal’s pieces appear to focus primarily on the cultural divides between Western and Oriental. He uses his art to play with emotions and give people a new perspective on the assumptions that they may have built through their culture. More specifically, Bilal shows the war in Iraq in its barest, quietest forms.
Upon looking up his works, I found my way to his website, which is the first so far this semester to actually give artist’s descriptions and thoughts on pieces. These descriptions helped me understand what he meant better with each work presented, but it didn’t detract from the initial impact that they had. Photos from The Ashes Series and The Things I Could Tell… exhibit show a world that we do not usually see, especially in relation to Iraq. America hasn’t gotten past seeing the American side of the conflict. Seeing an artist take that fact and turn it into art makes it all the more obvious.
His pieces turn the eye of the viewer from their perspective and make them ask what the piece means beyond what they might initially understand. What is war, really? How does culture affect our understanding of war? What gets lost between soldiers leaving and veterans returning? Such questions need a lot of time and consideration to flesh out.