716 N. WELLS

The death toll in Turkey and Syria since February 6, 2023, has had a resounding effect on over 2.2 million who have had to flee their homes and 15 million people overall. Until today, over 50,000 lives have been lost in both Turkey and Syria. 1.6 million people are currently residing in tents, student dormitories and hotels. The effects of the earthquake have been felt throughout the region as far as Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and even all the way to Denmark and Greenland.

Scientists announced that this earthquake was equivalent to the power output of 120 megatons (60 nuclear bombs) being dropped (Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only 1.2 megatons.) It is inconceivable to see such devastation strike in a matter of seconds. But it has.

Ten cities were affected including the 2000 year-old ancient city of Antakya (Antioch) which has literally been leveled. Built around 300 BCE, it was a crossroads of civilization, an important point on the Silk Road, a modern tourist and religious pilgrimage including one of Christianity’s oldest churches, the Church of St. Peter. The region is known for its Bronze Age archaeological sites of Tel Atchana, Alalakh.

This exhibition is very personal to Arica Hilton, CEO of Hilton | Asmus Contemporary, whose family hails from that southeastern region of Turkey. Her last living uncle perished with the collapse of his apartment building along with a number of cousins.

HUMANITY (A Survey of Our Times) 2023 – REPRISE opens with British artist and photographer David Gamble’s 2014 oil painting of a blue “Angel Overlooking a City,” exposing a city painted in a cubist style reminiscent of Georges Braque.

“I think with all of the devastation, I wanted to begin and end not with tragedy, but hope. An angel overlooking a city seemed so apropos,” states Hilton. “There has to be something that these people can look forward to. Their homes being rebuilt, a new life, a new vision.

Angel Passing Over City
Angel Passing Over City

“I think with all of the devastation, I wanted to begin and end not with tragedy, but hope. An angel overlooking a city seemed so apropos,” states Hilton. “There has to be something that these people can look forward to. Their homes being rebuilt, a new life, a new vision. That is what I hope to offer. A large percentage of the proceeds from the sales of this exhibition will go towards targeted relief for the earthquake victims. Each collector will know exactly where the funds will be delivered.”

In addition, Syrian poet and photographer, Osama Esber, also experienced the earthquake’s effect with the death of his friends in his hometown in Syria. His photographs of reflections on water such as “Exile,” “The Road of the Wind” and “Traveling,” is his way of depicting the tragedy we have witnessed.

Born in Syria, Osama Esber is a widely published author of poetry, an essayist and short story writer, as well as a major translator of English writings into Arabic. He arrived in the United States as a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago in 2012, leaving the war-torn country of Syria to avoid the bombing and violence he and his family witnessed.

The Road of the Wind
The Road of the Wind

Where water is scarce trees know how to live on a few drops of rain.

When rain does not fall, they fade a little bit but they do not despair from the sky’s promise. Their hope irrigates them. ~ Osama Esber

Coming from a famous literary family, his uncle, Adonis, the most renowned and influential poet of the Arab world, was nominated numerous times for the Nobel Prize in literature. Esber’s wife, Maha, was a television journalist in Syria before the war. She was also a translator of Spanish novels and poetry, translating Jorge Luis Borges’ magical realist novels from Spanish to Arabic. Over the years, Esber has translated novels and poetry into Arabic by Henry Miller, Toni Morrison, Bertrand Russell, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Gilbert, Raymond Carver, Michael Ondaatje and Noam Chomsky, to name a few. In fact, he translated The English Patient by Ondaatje before the book became famous and made into the Oscar winning film.

What Esber and his family have experienced often manifests in his poetry. His poem, In the Land of Revelation was about the ravages of war. Yet, when we read the poem, we can easily substitute it for the earthquake.

“Dante, I put your book aside
And travel in its message to me on the roads of another hell.
A hell in which five rivers flow, I came.
Every river has a story to tell:
The first flows from invisible wounds,
The second flows from sorrows
And slides on the cheeks of earth as tears. The third emanates from the shouts of the crowds hitting the walls of indifferent cities. The fourth comes from desperate prayers
Knocking, in vain, the gates of heavens,
The fifth is a river of dead words
In whose waters poets look at their dissipating faces.
Under collapsing roofs
From their rubble black clouds rise,
Expanding a sky for mourning…”

From Syria we go to Greece where “Rhapsody of the Present,” “Ecce Homo,” “Persona A’ and Persona B” are crafted by Greek artist Kostis Georgiou who has been described as a latter-day Francis Bacon. His portrayals of featureless faces suggest an identity or existential crisis. Using palette knives and thick paint, Georgiou’s goal is to capture himself on canvas before he changes or disappears.

From Greece, we go to Jordan with the elegant painting of fashion designer and artist Hama Hinnawi. In “Shades of Black,” she weaves the red threads and fabric of her Palestinian heritage onto her canvas.

Shades of Black
Shades of Black

The sensual sculpture of German born artist Boky Hackel-Ward forms the shape of a woman with the letters in the word, “DAMAGED.’  The bronze with platinum leaf was directly inspired by a poem entitled Mea Culpa taken from Paul Géraldy’s book Toi et Moi. While studying in Florence, she found an old, dilapidated copy of the book in a basement. The poem on the interior of the bronze with gold leaf reads:

Mea Culpa:
Au fond, vois-tu, mon erreur,
ma grande folie
c’est d’avoir chargé ton cœur
de tout le poids ma vie
Which translates to:

In the end, you see my error,
My greatest folly
Is to have charged your heart
With all the weight of my life.

Turkish artist Tan Taspalatoglu is currently on the ground in the Hatay province of Turkey which was hardest hit by the earthquake. He is making tents for the displaced as we prepare this exhibition. His acrylic on acrylic paintings of chess pieces represents a space of awareness in which the whole is known, as well as each square and the relations of the squares within that whole. Each chess piece or pawn, standing on a square, creates a mandala (a circle circumscribed or inscribed by a square), which is symbolic of wholeness.
Each piece has its own meaning: the king in the game symbolizes the spirit, the queen symbolizes the mind, the rook symbolizes the physical body, the knight symbolizes force, the bishop symbolizes feeling and the pawns symbolize the senses.

We include these works because Chess was source of inspiration in the arts in literature soon after the spread of the game to the Arab World and to Europe in the Middle Ages. The earliest works of art centered on the game are miniatures in medieval manuscripts, as well as poems, which were often created with the purpose of describing the rules of life. The game’s early European players turned the game into an allegory for society and changed it to mirror their world. Since then, poets and writers have used it as an allegory for love, duty, conflict and accomplishment.

Another German photographer Christian Voigt pays homage to the Middle East with monumental photographs of an Egyptian Temple in Philae, Bacchus Temple, a Museum in Lebanon, and his emotional desert landscape “Arabesque,” as he captures the wind.


One of the most respected conservation photographers in the world, Cristina Mittermeier presents us with a young girl standing on a rock looking towards the horizon of the ocean “With Open Arms” Or “Ta’Kaiya.” She is facing in a state of joy, spreading her arms to face the horizon.


“My work is about building a greater awareness of the responsibility of what it means to be human. It is about understanding the history of every living thing that has ever existed on this planet also lives within us,” states Mittermeier.

We complete our exhibition with the works of Turkish composer, singer, musician, author and statesman, Ibrahim Kalin. His “Prayer” is a universal image of a human being communing with the divine.

HUMANITY (A Survey of Our Times) 2023 – REPRISE runs thru April 28, 2023.
HUMANITY (A Survey of Our Times) 2023 – REPRISE runs thru April 28, 2023.

And lastly, the denouement is Arica Hilton’s “Universe, Life Unlimited,” a reminder that the Universe is vast and regardless of the circumstances, we can choose the way we look at life. “I have never believed that our lives are predestined by the event that happened before or that we cannot change our circumstances because of one choice or another. I believe in the power of vision. I believe in free will, that we can choose our path the way we wish to design it.”

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