Diana Al-Hadid, born in Aleppo, is a Brooklyn based, Syrian-American sculptor and installation artist. Much of Al-Hadid’s work consists of sculptures that mimic the aesthetics of ruins and portray fantastical structures of the past in decaying, degraded form. Her sculptures, panels, and drawings combine figuration and abstraction as they reference ancient art, history, and cartography from the past.
Al-Hadid came to the United States at age five with her family who settled in Ohio. In 2003, Al-Hadid received her B.A. in Art History and her M.A. in sculpture from Kent State University, Ohio. Later she received her M.F.A. in sculpture in Virginia.
Al-Hadid loves story telling but rejects specificity. Her goal is ambiguity. Growing up in a non-Christian home, she did not always know Western Biblical characters or stories. Yet she used Christian images as source material for her sculptures. She would appropriate figurative compositions, drawing and painting them on material hung on a huge wall. She wold obliterate the details and rework the piece by adding, cutting, taking away, or pasting something over it. This textured process caused the work to be morphed into something else. When the liquid covering had dried and drippings could be suspended in isolation, the object was ready. The covering could be peeled off and her sculpture could stand or function alone as a three dimensional object.
In Al-Hadid’s exhibition “Falcon’s Fortress” there were three sculptures based on timekeeping devices detailed in the “Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices,” a compilation of designs from Al-Jazari, the medieval inventor who lived during the Islamic Golden Age and who was said to have influenced Leonardo Da Vinci. Al-Hadid’s use of Golden Age “candle clocks” is in each of these three sculptures.
Positioned at the center of the exhibit “The Candle Clock in the Citadel” had a spiraling form with gilded balls emerging from a brass falcon, encrusted with faux candle wax. Her “The Candle Clock of the Scribe” suspended a falcon within metal parts. Her “The Candle Clock of the Swordsman” showed a battered falcon statuette hovering above the floor on top of a base made from pooling drips of wax.
In addition to these three sculptures there were a series of subtle wall-mounted panels, composed of gridded compositions covered with layers that dripped pigmented polymer gypsum, gold leaf, fiberglass, and plaster. The effect seemed to defy gravity. They too made reference to a Golden Age source: a collection of topographic views of the Ottoman empire – including 15th century Aleppo – made by a fifteenth century Golden Age cartographer. The faux ruins on view in this show connected with the actual ruins of modern day Aleppo, Al-Hadid’s birthplace, ravished by civil war.
Al-Hadid’s art has been shown in group exhibitions in Greece, Turkey, New York, and France, and she has had solo exhibitions in Austria and the Hamer Museum among others. Her works are included in the permanent exhibitions of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.