North Liberty artist shines light on conflict resolution

Artist's work on display at State Law Library

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

“Line Project” by North Liberty artist Sarah Bozaan is on exhibit through April 30 in the “Art at the Library” exhibition in the State Law Library at the State Capitol in Des Moines
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs “Line Project” by North Liberty artist Sarah Bozaan is on exhibit through April 30 in the “Art at the Library” exhibition in the State Law Library at the State Capitol in Des Moines

DES MOINES — To say North Liberty artist Sarah Bozaan grew up in a family filled with conflict is an understatement.

Born in Saudi Arabia to a Syrian father and Ecuadorian-American mother, her life-choices as a young adult created issues with her family, including teenage pregnancy, divorce, and an uncle who refused to attend one of her weddings because of a political disagreement he had with her father.

Confused about her uncle’s decision, she asked him to visit with her about his views and beliefs.

“I appreciated his candor and commitment to his core beliefs,” she said. “It was clear to me he was not ill-intended. In fact, he believed he was coming from a place of concern and was leading by example. The tone of the conversation was friendly, though our viewpoints were radically different. I was struck by the similarity in our intentions.”

Inspired by their conversation, Bozaan started asking people to collaborate with her on an art endeavor titled “Line Project,” on display through April 30 in the Iowa Arts Council’s “Art at the Library” exhibition in the State Law Library at the State Capitol.

As part of the creative process, Bozaan asked each participant to fill out a questionnaire about their convictions, how they maintain them, and how they might be perceived by others with opposing views. Each subject also was asked to imagine issues from the opposing viewpoint and the reasons why others hold onto their beliefs.

Next, she met with them one-on-one, passing a pen back and forth to draw 108 straight lines — a reference to Buddhist prayer beads — within a 6-by-9-inch frame, while discussing their convictions. The result is a collection of line drawings of various expressions contained within identical parameters.

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“All of those pieces were done with people from Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, and some family members,” she said recently from her home. “I wanted the project to force people to sit with me and create something together regardless of viewpoints and beliefs, and discover how you cultivate relationships and maintain them when all these things are going on.”

That came full circle for her own family when her uncle was diagnosed with cancer and recovered after surgery.

“My father went to see him and the visit was warm and amicable,” Bozaan said. “Two people together ... how comedic our bluster in the face of death.”

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