Born in Dhour Shweir in Lebanon. Living and working in Soho, New York since 1969. The Lebanese war was the most devastating happening in her life, and her work addresses the human element in war time. She is primarily an abstract artist with oil as a primary medium, although her ceramics constitute a substantial body of work on their own. Sumayyah also works on handmade paper, wood and in mixed media. Her art, although abstract, it always refers back to nature. Exhibited in many galleries in New York like Denise Bibro Fine Art Gallery, Blink Gallery and Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba. Her latest work addresses the effects of cluster bombs on the human element.
LR: Hi Sumayyah
SS: Hi Maroun
LR: You know, I feel sorry for missing your latest gallery exhibition in New York. I tried to go before I left to Lebanon, but my time was in conflict with the showing hours, and when I returned, it was over. Is there any new exhibition in the works in the near future?
SS: I am also sorry that you missed the show. Thank you for putting the effort. I don’t have a specific time for my next exhibition. It is in the working now.
LR: OK, a small introduction about your work. How would you describe it?
SS: I am primarily an abstract oil painter. I always worked on paper as well, pastels and charcoal. I also have a solid body of work in ceramics/mixed media.
LR: You have concerned most of your work with the Lebanese issues and with the Palestinian issues, and also with the issues in Iraq. Human suffering that has been dragging for years in these lands seems to provide the driving force behind your work, could you elaborate on this for us.
SS: Frankly the intensity of the situation in the Middle East found its way into my art. I was actually surprised to have found my self doing an installation piece that addressed the “Wall” Israel is building on Palestinian lands , separating Palestinians from their farms and from other members of their family. For Iraq I did a ceramic/nails piece entitled “5th Crusade” looks like a small Crusade castle. As for Lebanon I addressed all these bombs that are killing Lebanese journalists and politicians. I made the Lebanese flag in black and white, mourning colors. I spilled ink for blood and use lots of nails to represent violence.
LR: I see that you work with collages, oils and ceramics, as well as with ink and charcoal, but somehow, there is a continuous character throughout. How do you describe this internal glue if we may call it?
SS: Because I am clear that I am addressing violence in retrospect I realized that the materials I have picked up are fragile: clay, very fragile, and so is paper.My oils, thought abstract do refer to nature. Since I grew up in the mountains it felt natural do do an extraordinary body of work representing mountains. The series is entitled “Catskill Mountains series”
LR: Your recent work addressed the effects of cluster bombs on the human element.
SS: What is so eerie is that I started this body of work a week or so before Israel attacked the South. My bombs look pretty from far and you approach them they are really very violent. I have in image of children running to pick them up to play with and “boom” they tear them apart.
LR: You co-founded 22 Wooster Gallery and you are an active member of the gallery in NYC. Could you tell us a bit about that?
SS: That was a fun and a learning experience, an experience of sharing with other artists.
LR: How do you see women’s rights reflected in your work?
SS: I don’t think I addressed this subject directly. However I had used the work of women poets who express their feelings about the violence: Etel Adnan, Claire Gebayle, Suhair Hammad…
LR: You have exhibited in Lebanon on several occasions, and you have exhibited your work in the USA for the most part. How do you describe the differences between the art scene in Lebanon as compared to that in the USA?
SS: I exhibited once in Lebanon at the Platform Gallery in Ashrafieh in the early nineties. I always thought of Beirut as little New York. Even in war times Beirut has incredible energy. Art scene in Beirut is so much smaller. Lebanese artists are aware of the international art scene and what other artists are doing.
LR: Any last words?
SS: I am glad I got the opportunity. Life has a life of its own. Check my web site to see where my journey is taking me.
LR: It was great having you Sumayyah, we’ll keep our news section updated with your latest.
Sumayyah’s address on the web is:
You can contact Sumayyah at:
Write Sumayyah at:
168 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012