Life took artist from bloodied streets to painted streets – News – – Google Alerts

PORT JERVIS – Artist Hani Shihada has festive ideas for Port Jervis that came to him in a roundabout way through two big terrors early in his life.

The first was his war-bloodied street in Amman, Jordan. By the time he was 11, three wars, including a civil war, had brought snipers to the roofs and many dead bodies to the pavement. He was the 11th of 15 children, and his mother always feared being shot.

“I saw people crying and screaming, including my mother,” he said. “She risked her life to get food, but she was desperate.”

Shihadi lost two brothers in those wars. Meanwhile, his father was a chef for the French, German and British embassies, and then for U.S. Marines. In the outposts of foreigners, Shihada found solace.

“Houses and people were pale. There was no art. But, by luck, I went to the British Consulate and looked at art books and listened to music,” said Shihada. “Art gave me hope and peace.”

He went to art school in Italy, but lacked enough money to stay. He had hoped for a scholarship, but to get one he would have had to join a political party and “show loyalty,” he said. “They would have sent me to fight in Lebanon. My mother didn’t want me to fight.”

So he followed the Italian tradition of madonnari – street painting. He painted pavement to exhibit his skills, first painting the face of the Virgin Mary, hoping for commissions. This roused his second terror.

“I wanted to be an artist so bad. I was very afraid of failing, being rejected and ridiculed,” he said.

However, people were supportive and commissioned pieces by him. He met an American woman studying political science, and they married and moved to New York City in 1985. He painted sidewalks all over the city that drew commissions from art lovers and producers of television commercials and Nickolodeon.

But Shihadi wanted his children to have more of the natural world, less apartment walls as they grew up. So he looked in a 75-mile radius of New York, and,…

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