In Memory of Rosalind D. Al-Aswad


The Swan, Rosalind Al-Aswad

Christopher Al-Aswad’s Journal Entry – March 14, 2003
My mother died on March 13, 2003. She died so peacefully, is what I told my friends. I said she died without resistance. And that’s how I want to live my life, without resistance. Easing up into the ceiling, without resistance. Sliding into the sky, without resistance. Her body; simple a case that imprisoned her soul. Now that soul journeys through the sky. My mother is liberated. She moves and speaks. Mother, you have unlocked a part of my soul and allowed me to see beyond what I could see before. I let go, there’s no point in carrying all that weight. Mother, I’m beginning to think that you’re in every room that I pass through. I can feel that spirit that passed out of your body and dissolved into the bedroom spread through the apartment. I thought of how it would move through the city and out to Indiana by the morning. All along rising as you spread. I’m imagining you here with me now. There’s nothing to perform mother, this is just the beginning of a very long conversation, we’ll speak more often now.

Speak Up

Altar of Revolution

Spirit Mother, Christopher Al-Aswad, 2005

The spirit that dwells in my
mother, trickster and artist
alike, prods and pokes its way
into all of our lives. She likes
to cause problems, to upset
balances, to displace realities.
The conventional is her foe.

Her presence almost makes
you nervous with the sheer
abundance of energy dancing on
her force-field. At any moment,
this abundance of life can rise
to an unheard-of pitch, and
suddenly, mysteriously, break
into a marvelous crescendo
of hysterical and contagious
laughter. Laughing in the
company of my mother is an
experience of ecstasy, complete
unconscious immersion
whirling in the absurdity of life:
crackling, squealing, shrieking
laughter. She feels her emotions
from the center of her being;
total emotion, not inchoate
half-feeling. Complete pain,
complete joy, complete anger.

My mother cries in a movie
theater like no Jewish mother
has ever cried in public before.

She lives at the maximum
threshold and her life is
overflowing. She lives, not apart
from the world, but within the
tumultuous movement and
ever-changing flow of it. She
lives without regrets, without
even the longing of unfulfilled
desires. Anything she wants
to do in this life, she does.

Lovers

Good Morning America

Portraits of an Examined Life

In 2005, Lisa Wainwright, Dean of Graduate Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, curated Rosalind Al-Aswad’s Portraits of an Examined Life, an exhibit featured by the Art Institute shortly after her death in 2003. The exhibit depicted the three phases of Rosalind’s artistry, clearly portraying the progression of a career regrettably shortened by illness. In a review that reveals the strength and spirit of feminism that was evident in her art, Wainwright gives the artist a voice that conveys not only the meaning of her work, but the soul memorialized within each piece.

The legacy of Rosalind Al-Aswad resides in the dozens of paintings and drawings she made of herself and others from 1985 to 1999. Like many before her, Al-Aswad became an artist later in life, bringing to her canvases the complexity of myriad roles as business woman, mother, wife, daughter, citizen, friend, and artist. Her life’s journey informed the paintings and gave them their poignancy and critical edge. Al-Aswad gazed deep into the world of human relations and chronicled the dynamics she found there. Using models and props within her reach—family, friends, and the trappings of suburban life—she probed the mundane as a code for unlocking a deeper moral message. The work could not be made fast enough to accommodate all that the artist wished to say.

Meet the Collins

Left Behind

Rosalind Al-Aswad was an expressionist of sorts. She faced her demons whether in the workplace, on the domestic front, or in the face of death. And all of this made its way into her painting for us to behold with wonder. We should all have the strength of purpose that Al-Aswad demonstrated in so many ways. Her children do. And along with the painting, her legacy is alive in them. I never knew Rosalind Al-Aswad, but I know she was an extraordinary woman. She once claimed, “I guess I have always seen life as a series of parts you play,” and now these parts, and all that they entail, will linger in my imagination for some time to come.

In memory of my mother, Rosalind Al-Aswad (1942 – 2003)

During her studies at The School of the Art Institute, Rosalind Al-Aswad was concerned for her fellow classmates who were working hard to make ends meet. Many times, Rosalind would purchase art supplies for students who were experiencing financial difficulty. In memory of Rosalind, the family has created a fund for student assistance, and in building upon her legacy, it is the hope that one day this fund will also provide scholarships for students residing in the Middle East. If you are interested in making a gift in memory of Rosalind and benefiting art students for many years to come, philanthropic contributions may be made to The Rosalind D. Al-Aswad and Christopher Al-Aswad Memorial Fund at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and mailed to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Office of Development, 37 South Wabash, Suite 814, Chicago, IL 60603. For information about the memorial fund, please contact the Office of Development at (312)899-5158.

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