Chicago critic Lori Waxman’s 60wrd/min project aims to seriously critique a body of work within a twenty-minute time frame. Recent iterations of the project tackled shows that were affected by COVID and sought to assist artists in need of press for their O-1 visas. This time, Waxman tackles the work of artists who are currently or were previously incarcerated, such as Moath al-Alwi, who has been detained at Guantanamo for more than twenty years. Last week’s reviews featuring artists residing in Stateville Correctional Center are here.
Any type of artmaking has the potential to liberate a person from their environment, at least in spirit, but the sculptures made by Moath al-Alwi offer more. What he constructs are model boats, vessels symbolic of movement and journey, at home in the vastness of the sea whose scent and sound penetrate the cells of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where al-Alwi has been detained without charge for twenty years. Meticulously crafted from the scrappiest of supplies—dental floss, mop heads, wooden skewers, plastic bottle caps, milk cartons, prayer beads—his tall-mast ships and gondolas are wonders of precision and inventiveness. They come, too, with clever carrying cases built from cardboard, painted in trompe l’oeil wood and outfitted, harrowingly, with window bars and locking systems. Even these keels of freedom know their limits. What could al-Alwi make with proper art supplies, real studio space and actual liberty? Given his ability to create something magnificent out of worse than nothing, one imagines he could do just about anything.
Lori Waxman 2022-09-19 12:11 PM