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Saj Issa, Arab-American Artist, Explores Outcomes Of Globalization

Saj Issa is an emerging artist based in Los Angeles who grew up between two contrasting worlds. She was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, by her Palestinian parents who fled the First Intifada in the 1980s, but remained in Palestine during the summers. This upbringing led to her developing different personas, depending on where she was. Initially, she found it challenging to reconcile these distinct parts of herself, but she now sees them as integral to her identity.

Issa developed a love for art early on because she enjoyed painting and crafts on a tactile level. She obtained a Master's in Fine Arts from the University of California and has showcased some of her works in LA's museums and art fairs.

Issa has a number of current projects, including a line of ceramic tile works that contrast Eastern and Western design aspects. She combines iconic Western logos, such those for Nike, Coca-Cola, and Shell, with Middle Eastern geometrical and botanical designs.

Her choice of brands reflects their significant impact in the East, and in order to emphasize the negative effects of colonialism on indigenous ways of life, she often incorporates traditional tile work in conjunction with corporate branding. Through repetition, Issa communicates the habits of consumerism, mass manufacturing, and commercial tendencies that are emblematic of globalization.

Her other series, such as "Convenience Store," which was partially motivated by her immigrant father's old employment in a corner store, maintain that geometrical design. The portraits of workers in the series evoke nostalgia and a sense of lost identity in a fast-paced transactional environment. The workers' faces or bodies are obscured by receipts, emphasizing the dehumanizing nature of their work.

Issa views her art as a way of creating her own visual language, and her work explores themes of identity, globalization, and the impact of colonization. Her upbringing between two cultures has shaped her perspective, and her art reflects this unique perspective.

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