For Leila Abdelrazaq, comics are not just an expressive medium, but an instructive one. As is apparent from her solo show, Drawing the Diaspora: Comic Art & Graphic Novels by Leila Abdelrazaq in the Lower Level Gallery at the Arab American National Museum through April 19th, the young Palestinian-American artist consciously leverages the semiotics of comic art to present common narratives of Palestinian refugee and immigrant experiences to a Western audience that may be less familiar with them.
“I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, though I was never formally trained in it,” said Abdelrazaq in an email interview with CultureSource. “My love for visual art got me into theater, and I was drawn to set design and construction—I currently work part-time in a wood shop. I also did a bit of directing in college, but lately I’ve really returned to my roots as a visual artist,” she describes.
The Chicago-born first-generation American artist relocated with her family at the age of 11 to South Korea where she grew up, before eventually returning to Chicago for college. She graduated from DePaul University in 2015, the same year in which she published her debut graphic novel, Baddawi. The novel, which interprets her father’s life experiences growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s amidst the civil war and the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Beirut, received the Shortlist Award for the 2015 Palestine Book Awards. Selections are on display at the AANM.