We sat down to talk with Tannery artist Maha, to find out more about the next Tannery Talk which she will be moderating, and her new work in the group exhibit RHYTHM and RETURN at Radius Gallery.

Tell us a little about you and your journey as an artist.

I came to America when I was 4, and lived in the East Bay. My art career started off at Laney Junior College in Oakland before I transferred to UCSC at 29 (summer 2007). I’ve been an artist here in Santa Cruz ever since.

I originally came to the Tannery because my aunt lives here. She’s an artist as well, and she told me there was an opening here as my next step after family student housing at UCSC while I was still in the program. When the lofts opened, I moved in – so I’m actually one of the first people to live here. I’ve been here since the birth of the Tannery.


You’re moderating the next Tannery Talk – tell us about it! What are you excited to discuss?

The talk I’ll be moderating is called “Many Layers: When contemporary artists merge social justice & environmental activism into their practice.” Anyone is invited to attend, for free, on February 20 at Radius Gallery, 7-8:30pm.

This talk will center on how artists incorporate environmental themes into their subject matter, and change the narrative of science. Usually when we think of science and the environment, the voices we hear are those of cis, straight, white men. We’re aiming for the panel to be diverse: all people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. They’ll be talking about how they merge environmental science and activism into their art, and discussing themes of environmental racism (how land gets racialized) and social justice. 

One of our artist collaborators, Paloma Medina, wrote a book called “Looking for Marla”, which is a children’s book showing the range of gender diversity in the natural world. Poet Joseph Jason Santiago Lacour will also be sharing a poem about going back to the Philippines – a colonized island – and what it means to return home to a place with a history of racism, colonization and military rule. When the people who inhabit the land are marginalized, the environment is as well. 

What are you working on now?

Starting February 1, I’m participating in a group exhibition at Radius Gallery called “RHYTHM and RETURN,” featuring works exploring patterns and repetition.

The title of my piece is “Dry and Humid Patterns” and it’s about being biracial (Pacific Islander and Arab), the combination of both ethnicities, and old traditions of geometric patterns. Since I was a child, I was drawn to doodling shapes and images from both cultures and wanted to combine them. This is an installation of fabric wall coverings, sculptures in multiple media, and a floor covering with 2D and 3D fabric pieces. 

Identity has always been the main subject of my work, especially around gender roles and subculture. Humans are so complex, with all of our different personas and identities we use to label ourselves. This work is also a social statement on the idea that, as a multiracial person, you have to pick just one ethnic identity. You’ll be able to enter into the installation, so you can sit down and in a way be consumed by it. I’m trying to create a space where multiracial people can come into the exhibit and feel that it’s the combination of ethnicities that makes you feel whole.


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Installation is up!! Opening at 6!tonight @radiusgallery

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When can we see your exhibit at Radius?

The exhibit opens February 1 and will be on display through March 15, 2020.

Other artists participating in the group exhibit are: Natalie Ciccoricco, Robin Kandel, Jenny Phillips, Dora Lisa Rosenbaum, Ray Sumser and Ryan Takaba. The public is invited to a few special events as well, including an opening reception and an artist talk:

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