February 3 – April 8, 2017

This exhibition of more than 60 photo-based works reflect the tension inherent in the presence, or absence, of people in a place, whether in their native land or abroad. Organized by the CVA, Presence: Reflections on the Middle East features 12 artists living in the U.S. and abroad.

The artists, all who are affected by the Middle East diaspora of the past 20 years, explore what it means to leave something, and in some cases, someone, behind, whether by choice or by force, and how cultural heritage and the past are interwoven with the present. Through controlling placement and context of the figure, along with the subtleties of obscurity, these artists preserve identity, relationship, and agency.

Photography has been theorized and argued many different ways, but there is usually no disagreement about its power in relationship to memories and the past. Since its invention, photography has been tied to the notion of the trace. Often, a presence is felt most acutely through its absence. Photographs, either directly or indirectly, contain the trace of what came before.

  • Cecily Cullen, Curator, Managing Director / Curator of CVA
  • Leila Armstrong, Visiting Faculty – Art History, Theory and Criticism, MSU Denver
  • Natascha Seideneck, Visiting Faculty – Photography, MSU Denver

Artists in the Exhibition

Arwa Abouon

Golnar Adili

Tarek Al-Ghoussein

Samira Alikhanzadeh

Halim Al Karim

Sami Al Karim


Tulu Bayar

Shadi Ghadirian

Rula Halawani

Laleh Mehran

Javid Tafazoli

Samir Yamin