Racha El Khalil

Racha_El_Khalil_043Racha is very excited to be participating as both an artist and curator in this year’s festival. She grew up in Lebanon and moved to New York at eighteen to study at NYU’s College of Arts and Science with no definitive major in mind—though she was leaning towards economics. At the end of her sophomore year, she transferred to Gallatin to pursue a concentration that combines art history, philosophy, and studio art to examine notions of the self and of self-awareness. Part of her undergraduate career includes an independent study in self-portraits that she completed under the instruction of artist and Gallatin faculty member Meleko Mokgosi. Racha is now in her final semester at NYU.


In this series of paintings, I have made three self-portraits in an attempt to explore my identity and psychology and to cast light on the genre of self-portraiture. As an Arab woman studying art history, I felt that my history and culture were rarely included in the conversation. During my studies, self-portraiture, specifically, was seen as a Western tradition. Through my works, I am inserting myself into this old practice, and by painting my face, I am asking the world and ultimately, the Arab world, to look at me.

I create my works by looking at an image—a photo I have taken or a sketch I have made—drawing it out on canvas or panel, and adding layers of flesh-toned paint which I later glaze with more vibrant colors and detail. However, I like to maintain a faded color scheme to render expression the focus of my work.