Married to the Present, Figuring in the Past

Sahar Fakhoury paints local scenes, but the vivid colors in her portraits are inspired by her home country, Kuwait. Portrait by Colby Rabon

No matter the circumstances of her life, Sahar Fakhoury has always made time to make art. Growing up in Kuwait, her role on her school’s gymnastics team conflicted with the art classes she loved, so she requested the assignments to complete on her own. When she was not accepted into an exclusive theater-design program, she instead went to computer school, then studied for three years under an art teacher doing classes in her studio.

Sarah and Landry at Biltmore Estate

In the summer of 1990, Fakhoury, her husband, and three young children were traveling through the United States on holiday; while the family was visiting her brother-in-law in Mars Hill, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, preventing their return.

“Thirty-one years later, we are still here,” she says. “I did not know at the time that this area was an artist community. My concern was getting settled and getting our children in school.”

At the Window

Processing through the grief of what was happening at home and the shock of such sudden displacement, she again turned to art. She signed up for life-drawing sessions and became acquainted with local artists, then enrolled at UNCA to earn her BFA. “The teachers I had in the beginning were all figurative artists and were my role models, so figures are my love.”

Though she began painting with watercolor and believes those techniques still influence her work, oil is her main medium for figures, landscapes, and still life, and she also does sculpture. She credits the intense sunlight of her home country for the vivid colors in most of her paintings.

Aida

A stark exception are the somber pieces in her Remnants collection. “Those were inspired by the war,” she explains. “People forget how innocent people are affected, particularly women, children, and the elderly. I worked hard on this because it meant a lot to me personally to remember and express it.”

She captures more joyful moments in one of her new pursuits — live event painting. “A bride looking for a live wedding painter contacted me,” she remembers. “I told her I had never done it but I’d be happy for her to be my first.” Fakhoury researched the medium before the event and was confident her experience of live-model painting and plein air provided her with the skills for the task. “It really turned out to be a beautiful painting,” she says.

Sunday Afternoon

She prepares for each wedding by becoming familiar with the venue and determining with the couple which scene they most want to capture — the ceremony, first dance, reception? Do they want to be the sole inhabitants of the frame, or should guests be included? She captures much of the composition on site, then takes it back to her studio to complete.

The pandemic put a halt to most weddings, but not to Fakhoury’s work. Transitioning to her home studio, she turned her artist’s eye to what was directly in front of her, which led to a focus on still life. “Painting was like a meditation, helping me through that time. I painted what was there. We have a generous fig tree, so lots of figs. And maybe more detail than usual,” she admits with a laugh.

Sahar Fakhoury Fine Art, Paintings, and Sculptures, River Arts District, Asheville. Fakhoury’s work is represented by Trackside Studios (375 Depot St., tracksidestudios375.com) and is also sold at Asheville Gallery of Art (82 Patton Ave., ashevillegallery-of-art.com). For more information, call 828-242-4708 or see sahar-art.com.

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