Ameena Khan

My artwork is guided by the principal that the right painting can transcend boundaries of culture, language, location and even time to touch hearts and transform communities.  I believe that art not only brings us joy, but the very best art challenges us to reconsider our most deeply held convictions. This is the type of art that I strive to create: work that is both beautiful and thought-provoking.

Who are you?

My name is Ameena Khan, and I am a visual artist/teacher living and working in Tampa FL. Before pursuing art professionally I worked as an engineer creating technologies to remove toxic metals from drinking water. While I enjoyed my career and found satisfaction in my work, I knew my passion was in the arts. I would lay awake at night, my mind uncontrollably racing about a current or upcoming art piece. Not pursuing those opportunities for creative expression was deeply frustrating. With the support of my family and friends in 2010 I began exhibiting and selling my paintings, in 2012 I quit my engineering job to focus more on creating, and in 2014 I started teaching elementary art.

My artwork is guided by the principal that the right painting can transcend boundaries of culture, language, location and even time to touch hearts and transform communities. I believe that art not only brings us joy, but the very best art challenges us to reconsider our most deeply held convictions. This is the type of art that I strive to create: work that is both beautiful and thought-provoking.

My body of work is diverse, with a variety of subjects, materials, and techniques. I am inspired by color, textures, and patterns to create paintings that celebrate creation, honoring its bright colors, balance, geometry, and order. I am particularly drawn to water imagery, as a symbol of purity and renewal. I am also motivated by contemporary experiences relating to socio-political situations. For these pieces, I begin with a focus on an emotion dealing with an event or condition and then I develop the painting from there. Whatever the subject, I draw upon feelings that are universal to the human experience and aim to connect with the viewer on a personal level.

Before creating I reflect, often for several weeks or even months, on how best I wish to convey my point of view considering colors, materials, and symbols. Then, once brush hits canvas, the piece is constantly evolving, in some cases being repainted several times before the spirit of the work is realized. It is an intense process, sometimes frustrating and trying, but always satisfying at its close.

 

Give us your favorite quote:

“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.” Vincent van Gogh.

 

Islamic Perspective:

What Ayah of the Quran do you hold close to your heart? Why?
I am a planner. I like to know exactly what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen in the future. Because of this I can easily become consumed with chores and activities, and forget the “big picture.” The way that I come back to center is to acknowledge the beauty of creation and the blessings that Allah has given me and my family. It helps me to slow down, recognize my place in the world, and appreciate my circumstance. There are so many ayat relating to this concept of gratitude and remembrance that it is challenging to pick just one. Here are two that resonate with my spirit:

“It is He who sendeth down rain from the skies: with it We produce vegetation of all kinds: from some We produce green (crops), out of which We produce grain, heaped up (at harvest); out of the date-palm and its sheaths (or spathes) (come) clusters of dates hanging low and near: and (then there are) gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety): when they begin to bear fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! in these things there are signs for people who believe.” (6:99)

And

“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (13:28)

What Hadith do you wish more non-Muslims knew about? Why?
“On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say: Allah the Almighty said: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.” (Hadith Qudsi, 34)

If we all recognized that God forgives even the greatest sinner, then we might more forgiving of ourselves and each other.

 

The “Ten”:

1. What is your favorite book?
“The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver. I have read it countless times and still am moved by the characters, the story, and the subtle way Kingsolver addresses issues like colonialism, ministry, and family bonds.

2. Who inspires/inspired you?
There is an artist and teacher in my hometown, Robert Ponzio, who uses art to create meaningful change in the world. Not only has he developed a curriculum tying his high school students to artists in China and Haiti, he also is plays an integral role in the “Sister City” program. This program brings youth from Palestine, Israel, and the US together through the arts, giving them a space to share their cultures and develop friendships despite the trauma caused by decades of conflict. His commitment to using art as a transformative tool is amazing!

3. What is the best lesson your mother/mother figure taught you?
My mother is an incredibly dedicated person. When she has committed to something, whether it is for work, her charity, or a family need, she dives into it 100%, leaving nothing behind. Her sense of dedication and loyalty is one of the greatest lessons she has taught me.

4. What advice would you give your 13 year old self?
“Don’t worry about something, until there is something to worry about.” This is one of the best lessons my husband has taught me, and I wish I could have learned it earlier on. It would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress.

5.What are your hopes for your daughter(s) and/or son(s)?
My hope for my children is that they can remember with appreciation and gratitude the blessings that they have been given. Stations in life are transitory, but if they can name their blessings and feel gratitude, then they can find contentment.

6.What is the biggest trial you went through in your life and how has that changed you?
Through the challenges I have faced I have learned to practice acceptance. I now understand that the only “thing” I can control is myself — and sometimes that doesn’t even work out very well! – so I have learned to accept situations and people as they are, and then work with what I’ve got in the best way that I can.

7. Any regrets? What’s something that you wish you’d thought about more before you did it?
Alhamdulillah, I am grateful for all of my experiences so far….the good ones, and the bad.

8. How do you stay grounded in your work and/or spiritually grounded?
When I find myself drifting spiritually I remind myself that “Allah is the Source of Peace.” To feel the peace that my heart longs for, I remind myself to connect with my Creator.

9. How do you bring about real change?
Real change comes by moving the hearts of people, and hearts are moved through human connection and experiences. This is why the creation and sharing of art, which serves as a direct line to the human spirit, is so critical to social development.

10. What do you hope to be remembered for?
I simply hope that my work makes people think, and perhaps touches their heart.

 

Message from Ameena:

As salaamu alaikum!

My message for you today is a call to remember the humanity of the “other.” In a world of conflict, uncertainty, and general mistrust, it is so easy to forget that strangers are just people. We all generally want the same things: peace, security, and love. The way that we work towards those goals may look a little different. We may eat different food, wear different clothes, pray in different ways, but if we remember each other’s humanity, it would be easier to look past the differences. Or perhaps instead of looking past the differences, we can share them, learn from them, and grow.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (49:13)

Let’s get to know the people outside of our tribes; or at the very least, let’s not be so afraid.

Sincerely,
Ameena

 

More About Ameena:

Ameena Yasmeen Khan Website
https://www.facebook.com/AmeenaYKhan
ameenakhanart.tumblr.com

Looking Forward

Unfortunately, stories about Muslim women are typically limited to one of two characters: the oppressed victim needing to be rescued OR the seductress, hidden behind a veil of mystery. This dehumanizing oversimplification invents a vast separation between nonMuslim and Muslim women. It creates a sense of “us versus them” and relegates Muslim women to being “an OTHER” instead of just “another.” To shrink this divide and expand the narrative I have created a series of 26 paintings that communicate some of the most intimate thoughts and feelings of Muslim women. To create the work — entitled “Just a Peek, Please?” — I invited American Muslim women to share something about their lives; a quote that reached beyond the stereotypes and expressed their unique individuality. I also invited the women to donate scarves their wardrobes to use in the work. Participants ranged in age (from 17 through late 60s), occupation (from home-makers to neurosurgeons), heritage (immigrants to citizens), and religious experience and practice. Each quote inspired its own painting, and most of the pieces are veiled with a corresponding scarf. Viewers are invited to “peek” under the scarves to see beyond what is apparent or implied, and learn something about the woman underneath. I am very proud that the series – along with other related work – will be exhibited at Hillsborough Community College from September through December of this year in a solo exhibition entitled “Loud Print.”

 

Sabina Khan-Ibarra is the founder of Muslimah Montage, a platform for women to share their own stories. Muslimah Montage’s profiles are now a part of altM. She is a writer, activist, women’s rights advocate and active member of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative.

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