Artist profile: Luma Jasim
By Tracy Bringhurst
Sep 15, 2021
Originally published in the Boise Weekly.
Luma Jasim makes powerfully thoughtful art. Originally from Iraq, she left the country at age 30 for Turkey and next moved to Boise and New York. She’s now back in Boise and showing her work.
“I’ve been through three wars and sanctions against Iraq,” said Jasim, “I left in 2006. The trauma, besides the war and economic hardship, was the way it affected the people, the society. The change from secular to closed, it’s like moving backwards. The circumstances there are extreme. With my art, I’m trying to express my feelings.”
Jasim’s current show titled “Long Term Vision” is showing at the Student Union Fine Arts Gallery at Boise State University until Oct. 3. The show is filled with large mixed-media pieces of acrylic, charcoal, ink, transfer images and even tar, that are both deeply thought provoking and aesthetically interesting. She is a multi-media artist. According to her artist’s statement: “This body of work explores the relationship between violence, politics, gender and emotional memory.” Jasim is also performing at Treefort with LED doing a kind of spoken word that combines with the dance. People can get more information at lumajasim.com or by following her on Instagram @lum_arty.
Jasim is based both in Brooklyn, New York and Boise. After immigrating to the United States, she got her second bachelor’s of fine arts in visual arts at Boise State and a master of fine arts degree from the prestigious Parsons School of Design, The New School, in New York.
When she first moved to Boise she wasn’t finding places to show her art. She said she’d exploded with creativity when she arrived.
“I wanted to show my art but I didn’t get support with it,” said Jasim, “so I went back to school, took all kinds of different classes and became exposed to different materials. When I graduated BSU, I still couldn’t find a community to show the art; my house was full of it but places didn’t want to show it.”
She was disappointed and decided to go somewhere else to study. She ended up in New York and after graduating Parsons began to apply for artist’s grants and performances in Boise. She got all that she applied for and came back — originally just for four months but she’s stayed due to COVID.
Her exhibit at BSU has work that’s a bit older combined with newer pieces. She said it’s a bit like two shows in one. Some pieces are heavy-layered mixed-media and others have open space combined with geometric shapes — Jasim said it’s reminiscent of tile and art found throughout Iraq.
“The title of the exhibit is about immigration and being a refugee and the heavy weight we carry as we merge into a new society,” she said.
Her paintings are political and show what she’s lived through; by creating them she’s able to work through some of her trauma, while showing people here the realities of the suffering endured by the Iraqi people.
She said during the Iraq invasion it was a mess, that the ground didn’t stop shaking for days. At first more than half of the country was welcoming to American forces but after the relentless and random bombings, she said it felt like the entire country became jobless.
“There was no electricity and it was so hot, they bombed everything,” said Jasim. “All the borders were open and terrorists were coming in and trying to take control. There were bombs and explosions every day. The targets didn’t even seem to make sense, it was just where people were living. There is an image of Baghdad from a Google map that showed all of the bombs as a red dot. The entire area looked red. I can’t forget this image. It was years of this life.”
This is what Jasim is conveying in her art. One piece titled “Baghdad After Liberation” is the view of a city street with what looks like cables worming out of the cityscape and coming back into itself. Jasim said that after all the bombing people were using tiny generators and sharing them with each other. With this knowledge, the piece takes on an eerie, visceral and real feeling. In this case… art is imitating life. She said she always starts painting with uncertainty, she never knows how it will go. Most of the art is dark, with figures cut out of black, bold lines.
In another piece titled “The Coin” it is a side-by-side of Saddam Hussein and George Bush. She said it represents the two big criminals that destroyed her life.
“Long term vision is me seeing big powers starting wars and sanctions and being surprised that this creates refugees; this is a circle,” said Jasim. “War is built on lies. In the end it’s about money and control, so this will continue. It’s what I’ve seen all my life and that’s what this exhibit is about. … What is democracy and loyalty?”