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A Boundless Drop to A Boundless Ocean

Shiva Balaghi
January 26, 2021

A collaboration between the Orlando Museum of Art and The American University in Cairo, A Boundless Drop to a Boundless Ocean, will feature artworks by US-based artists of Arab and Iranian heritage in simultaneous exhibitions in Orlando and Cairo. Curated by Dr. Shiva Balaghi, with support from Coralie Claeysen-Gleyzon, A Boundless Drop to a Boundless Ocean will be on view in galleries at the Orlando Museum of Art and The American University in Cairo’s Tahrir Cultural Center. 

Drawing on local and regional collections, the Cairo iteration of the exhibition features artworks by Shiva Ahmadi, Farah Al Qasimi, Kahlil Gibran, Pouran Jinchi, and Youssef Nabil.  

Farah Al Qasimi,Landfill Flowers, 2014, image courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, photographed byCapitol D

The exhibition’s title, taken from Kahlil Gibran’s classic book, The Prophet, describes an immigrant’s transformation from “a boundless drop to a boundless ocean.” The show begins with a drawing by Gibran. The immigrant artist’s journey entails a creative negotiation between the past and the present, between here and there. Along the way, diasporic artists create their own visual language that can convey meaning across cultural, linguistic, and social borders. Bringing together artworks created over the span of a century, the exhibition explores the rich cultural landscape of American diasporas. 

A Boundless Drop to a Boundless Ocean explores the search for meaning frequently experienced by many individuals who travel or relocate, especially to different cultures,” said OMA Interim Executive Director Luder Whitlock. “Offered simultaneously with the American University in Cairo, it is an extraordinary opportunity to reflect deeply about a sense of place and belonging.”


Farah Al Qasimi,Old McDonald’s, 2014, image courtsey
​​​​​of Barjeel Art Foundation, photographed by Capitol D


“We welcome this historic collaboration between the American University in Cairo and the Orlando Museum of Art,” said AUC President Francis J. Ricciardone. “Through the dedicated leadership of Jonathan and Nancy Wolf, AUC has developed promising academic exchanges with the University of Central Florida. This exhibition provides even more opportunity for meaningful cultural exchange between Cairo and Orlando.” Jonathan Wolf is an AUC Trustee and Nancy Wolf serves on the Board of Trustees of OMA.

“Emigration is the quintessential experience of our time,” wrote the critic John Berger. Revolutions, wars, economic instability, and environmental disasters have led to an influx of populations crossing borders. The global movement of immigrants entails a remapping of the cultural terrain. Dislocation, rupture, and transformation are reflected in the creative process of artists. The artists in this exhibition use color and design, technique and materials, composition and iconography to push the boundaries of conventional art forms, extending our field of vision of the American experience. Collectively, their art sheds light on complex histories of migration, the lingering impacts of upheaval and conflict, and an ongoing search for a sense of belonging. 

A series of online public programs will be organized in association with this exhibition and announced on Tahrir Cultural Center’s Facebook page. This Cairo exhibition is made possible through generous sponsorship from Barjeel Art Foundation.