An audience sits and listens to Essma Imady
Essma Imady talks about her MAEP show at Mia.

Art is Purpose 2018

Essma Imady was 23 when she left Syria for Minnesota. She had struggled to determine her future, quitting chemistry college to pursue art, and then tanks were rolling through the streets. Her future was confronting her, whether she was ready for it or not.

She was decidedly not ready. She found that her new home, in St. Cloud, affected her in unexpected ways, even the way she moved through the world, the way she felt in her body. And when she realized she was pregnant, shortly after being accepted into a Master’s program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she became paralyzed with fear.

Imady’s MAEP (Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program) show, “Thicker Than Water,” opened at Mia in the spring of 2018, two years after she earned her MFA. Her installation art, including a lead-filled teddy bear and a child’s mobile made of fragile glass ornaments, revealed the refugee experience—combined with parenting—as a state of anxiety. The anxiety of language, heritage, safety, comfort. Everything that grounds us, thrown into uncertainty.

“I’m planting seeds,” Imady said of her art. “Something that, when nourished in the correct ways, could grow into something larger and could perhaps challenge a preconception or offer a different outlook.” But she, too, is likely to change; having explored the depths of her struggles, she now knows where to find her footing.