Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Profile of a parishioner in the Arab Daily News

By Ramzy Sweis

SONY DSC
Exploring the Archeological History of Jordan
Jacqui grew up running around her father’s engineer projects [like dams] in her own hard hat.  Her mother was the 1stwoman to graduate in Economics from City University in NY to be a college professor. Jacqui loved history & her Italian family on her mother’s side had long Sunday dinners with many people who debated politics, culture & religion for hours. Her grandmother loved art, & encouraged her to draw, as well as listen to opera. Her father took painting lessons. Jacqui thought art was too frivolous to major in, so she majored in biology, then history.
Jacqui found her niché but was thrown inexorable hurdles. Before achieving her MA thesis, her publication was turned down as a man stole her thesis. She spent 2 years in the Peace Corps in the Nigerian desert with Fulainis, Hausas, camels, & her horse, preaching art history. She lost her voice for 6 years due to laryngitis during her second pregnancy. Her husband was ill in a mental hospital leaving 2 infants with no way to work nor money. She had to go on welfare & food stamps to survive. It gave her understanding for the poor esp. struggling mothers. Once she had surgery with Teflon implant in her left vocal cord, & her voice returned, she was able to withstand. Living near the World Trade Center: she was offered a job on the 95th floor of Tower 2 in September in 2001 yet promised to return to teaching toddlers in the Bed-Stuy ghetto, saving her life. She studied in Paris, then received a PhD from Oxford University, U.K. Her thesis was a study of the symbolic significance of the cloud as a theophany (an appearance of the divine) in ancient pagan religions, Judaism & Christianity. It took a decade to complete. She explains, “Whenever I began to work on my dissertation I faced the cloud of the towers burning through my window so that the cloud became a sign of death & destruction for me.”
As a teacher in NYC public schools Jacqui once had a student high on crack, chasing her through the building all day trying to kill her; already having been thrown against a wall & dislocating her shoulder, while trying to choke her. She was transported to another school.
Jacqui taught at New York Institute of Technology in 2007 in the Computer Graphics/Fine Arts Dept. & in 2 years she was Department Chair.  Her son is a social worker during the day, DJ Prez Ike at night. Her daughter is an acclaimed yoga teacher in Brooklyn.
Jacqui now teaches Islamic Architecture in Context at German Jordan University. She collected clothes, blankets, bed sheets & medicine for the Iraqi & Syrian refugees from colleagues of Westbeth in Greenwich Village, the largest artists’ housing complex in the world. Also her home. Friends like Ultra Violet, who was in Andy Warhol’s factory. The jazz musician Gil Evans. Edith Stephen, former dancer, choreographer now filmmaker in her 90’s winning a NY Film Festival award. Jacqui is in her films.
Visiting Jerusalem to the book signing of peace activist Frank Romano, aboard the “Peace Bus” to Gaza, she was sprayed with “Skunk” Gas & Tear Gas en route to Mt. of Olives where she was staying in the House of Peace run by the famous Ibrahim el-Hawa. A link to her paintings. Recent review of her art installationon the Marvi Marmara Flotilla at Bandak Gallery. Jacqui plans to publish a book on Marvi Mamara where she painted portraits of men killed on the Flotilla to Gaza in 2010. She plans complete research on the appearance of Islamic sacred geometry in a Christian church in Umm al Rasas. Lastly, working with the Jordan National Gallery of Art, to bring the famous artist Duda Penteado from Brazil to direct workshops in Amman. He joins people from diverse or antagonistic backgrounds, to talk together for a few days, then work on making art together, which is then exhibited. He began this project after 9/11 to bring Muslims, Jews, Christians of all backgrounds together to communicate & to understand each other.
“I believe the US needs to see the Middle East with a more balanced perspective, & seeing the art work would be an important part of correcting the negative image the media presents.”

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