Dina Saadi is a contemporary artist, muralist, and designer living and working in Dubai. Her latest print edition is a vibrant portrait of American political activist Angela Davis. Each print portrays Davis as a beacon of wisdom, her hair beaming with color and resplendence, ahead of a hand-painted backdrop of her best-known quotes.
In our exclusive interview, Dina Saadi breaks down her decision to highlight Davis, her early artistic influences, and the challenges to navigating an imbalanced industry.
1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about these two pieces, anything immediate you would like us to highlight about this imagery?
Dina Saadi: When it comes to human rights activism, feminism, and the real fight for equality, I think Angela Davis is a champion. When 1xRUN approached me to participate in the 2020 International Women’s Day print suite, I thought I had to create something specially for that, and what could be more inspiring than Angela’s fight to give voice to those who are powerless to speak?
1x: Tell us about your execution of this imagery.
Saadi: This piece is a digital artwork that was hand embellished with acrylic paint, so each print is 100% unique and special. On the white background of each print, I painted inspirational quotes by Angela Davis that are close to my heart.
1x: What were some of your earliest interactions with art growing up?
Saadi: My story with art goes way back. I was a very hyperactive kid, and since I was only three years old, nothing could make me stick to the chair like a pencil and a plain piece of paper. I still have that wild child imagination and energy in me. I think it reflects a lot in my work and style. I grew up surrounded by art lovers like my mom, and I guess that’s how my love for art evolved.
When I grew up to design and begin art school, and later when I moved from Syria, I had the courage to pursue art as a full time career. I also think my hometown in Syria was a little gray for me. I never liked it that much and I barely had any access to art there. We also didn’t have any art curriculum in our school (as is the case in many schools around the world). So drawing and painting was my escape from reality and from my boring classes in school.
1x: Who was a prominent figure that played a role in your formation as an artist?
Saadi: My mother has always been my biggest supporter and fan. She used to take me to museums and galleries during summer vacations in Moscow. So on all school holidays, my schedule was always filled with different art courses and classes because of her. And to be honest, I’m very lucky to be surrounded by support and encouragement from my whole family on both my Syrian & Russian sides.
1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist?
Saadi: Working as a full-time artist can be frustrating and challenging at times, especially working on commissioned projects for brands or companies, as we have to maintain a healthy balance between the artistic value to the work and the client’s expectations. Some clients commission artists and give them more creative freedom than others, which is great, but it’s not always the case.
On another point, maintaining a financial stability is not always easy, especially at the beginning of any art career. Finding gallery representation, and good art platforms to sell, is hard in general.
View this post on Instagram
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept” Angela Davis. This international women’s day, let’s keep this powerful quote in mind. Cheers to all of the beautiful women out there who accepted me just the way I am, who gave me inspiration, strength, support and love 💜 Let’s make this world more equal together, and make sure in the process, we accept and support all what the word ‘woman’ means, beyond physical bodies, labels & sexuality. ——————————————————————— Work in progress on my hand embellished print release with @1xrun for international women’s day, dropping on the 27th of March.
1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more (or less) accepting and equitable for women?
Saadi: I think it’s been getting so much better in the last few years because of all the awareness and activism around this subject, but the industry is still not where it should be, as many collectors and galleries still believe that the value of work by women won’t grow as much compared to work made by men.
1x: What are some changes that you would like to see?
Saadi: I want to see real change, equal rights, and equal pay. I would love to see more female artists winning big projects, selling more work in galleries, and being considered as headliners for international festivals. I would also love to see behavior change on the collector’s side to balance the equation.
1x: What does a balanced art industry look like to you?
Saadi: An equal art industry is a balanced art industry. For me, the root of this problem is beyond the art industry. If we had equal work rights, equal pay, equal parenting rights, and duties. If we had no predetermined gender roles & societal expectations for women, and if women had the power to make all the decisions with respect to their own bodies, then we could talk about real equality.
All these obstacles are mainly imposed on women, so they have to do double the work to get to the same place professionally as men. It starts at our upbringing. We should make sure that little girls have the same mental support, encouragement, and chances to participate in all the same fields as boys do.
Follow Dina Saadi on Instagram – @dinasaadi.