Rana Huwais, Jackson junior, started her art career when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Before, she thought of herself as a writer. Now she has chosen new mediums and essentially lives in the Bobbit Visual Arts Center. Huwais says her love for art comes from expressing what’s inside her.
“It’s the amalgamation of just everything I love,” Huwais said.
Huwais said she starts in the classroom with an assignment, and lives in the studio until she can turn it into something bigger and better. She said that she’s known as the type of person who always goes above and beyond.
Huwais said she takes inspiration from a myriad of artists, including an illustrator named Nhi, who combines writing and visual art.
“Every single thing that she publishes, like, you have to sit with it for a while,” Huwais said of Nhi.
Huwais’s latest piece, titled “Apoplectic,” was inspired by her own writing. Over a period of five days, Huwais got angry and wrote down how she felt. Huwais said the piece evokes “red hot anger” and includes elements that “are a little mad, a little creepy, a little strange.”
“It was like a five-day, sort of, healing process of just like writing it out, thinking about it and after I did that writing, then this happened,” Huwais said.
Huwais stayed true to her normal style by adding in “easter eggs,” or hidden figures with meanings that are unique to her. These easter eggs show up in a lot of her work, and she said she uses them to make her art more personal.
Part two of Apoplectic is currently in the works, and rather than being red like its predecessor, part two is blue. Huwais said she hopes the painting will convey all the implications of the color blue, while also being serene in a different way than the “red hot serenity” present in Apoplectic. The second part is meant to be the “chiller cousin” of part one, she said.
Among all of her work, Huwais said her favorite piece is a soft sculpture book titled يا ماما, which translates to ya mama from Arabic. The book incorporates multiple mediums, including intaglio, typewriter, letterpress, colored pencil, embroidery and textile. The fabrics and papers used have a pillow-like softness.
Huwais said the piece explores her relationship with her mom and how they connect through food. Huwais’ parents both immigrated from Syria in the 90s. Through food, Huwais said she is able to learn more about her culture and familial heritage. Just by being in the kitchen, Huwais learns more about her mom, her grandma and family.
“The idea kind of came, of like, how do I share my culture and my heritage and also my relationships with my mom through food and through cooking,” Huwais said. “Growing up, we would stand in the kitchen, she would wash the fruit and I would cut them.”
Huwais also showed her heritage in the soft sculpture book through the use of Arabic. Since few people in Albion know Arabic, Huwais used it as a code of sorts –– something only she and her mom can figure out.
Huwais said the project ended up being an extremely fun experience, and now she wants every other piece she makes to live up to the soft sculpture book.
Others have noticed Huwais’s artistic prowess too, including Maddy Woods, a senior art major from Horton, and art professor Emmeline Solomon, whom Huwais credits as an important influence in her life.
Woods said that she couldn’t say enough good things about Huwais.
“She is possibly one of the most devoted artists I’ve ever met in my life,” Woods said.
Woods said Huwais takes every project she’s given and creates something amazing out of it, no matter how much extra effort is necessary.
Solomon said much the same.
“She is an incredibly hard worker, extremely diligent and passionate about what she does,” Solomon said. “She’s always striving for a deeper understanding of what she’s doing and a deeper exploration of the way that she can do it.”
For Huwais, art is therapy. Her work is a reflection of herself, and she puts her all into every piece she makes. She said her portfolio of work can be seen as documentation of her life.
“It’s almost like a giant journal of the past six years,” Huwais said. “I’ve never thought of it that way before.”