An expressive art exhibit at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse
“Mingle”— an expressive art exhibit at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse Many know Nancy Alhabashi as the owner of Nancy’s Candy located on the square in downtown Lawrenceville, but her close acquaintances know she’s also an artist and a poet.
Alhabashi’s journey as an artist has taken turns, but she believes the art currently exhibited in the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse is among her best work yet.
The name of the exhibit is “Mingle”, and it features a collection of smaller exhibits, each with a distinct theme.
The exhibit draws its name from a collection which depicts a Roaring 20’s style nightlife scene. Some of the paintings show women in glamorous attire — mingling — at fancy parties.
On a separate corridor is the Farmhouse collection, which depicts rural landscapes with simple buildings and women in plain clothes. And further, in the building are the Floral and Les Misérables collections.
The Courthouse is a perfect venue for this exhibit, according to Alhabashi whose preferred mode is acrylic on large canvases. She acquired the help of local art professionals Carolyn Wright and Syl-via Culberson to hang the paintings throughout the old building which was rebuilt in 1885 after a fire.
The placing is both strategic and playful. Some of the paintings are placed in plain sight, while others hang along corridors, inviting visitors to come find them.
Peering at the canvases, visitors will find they come in different colors and sizes, and the images they depict are distinct from one another. But there is a commonality in the abstract, emotive style that is unmistakably Alhabashi’s.
“Les Misérables No. 3” is particularly moving in her opinion.
“I was feeling a certain way, and it came out so expressive,” Alhabashi said of the painting that pictures a face, agonized and sad. “ I don’t have a personal story [for the painting]; I don’t know what I was feeling, but it just came out this way.”
Alhabashi is proud of this exhibit because it marks a development in her style. “Nontraditional” is the word Alhabashi uses to describes her work, and she’s pleased that most buyers say they purchased a painting because it made them feel — not just because it was decorative.
“Good art is what makes you feel,” Alhabashi said. “I’ve been told, and I feel myself by looking at my art, that there is serenity.”
Over the years, Alhabashi has sold many paintings, and there is one her patrons seem to request more often than the rest —“Happy No.5” is her latest version, and it hangs in the Courthouse’s main hall.
“Every time I do ‘Happy,’ people buy it . . . people fall in love with it,” Alhabashi said. “It’s a lady swinging from the sky — I’m sure you’ve seen [the painting] from the Victorian era, where there is a big tree, and people are swinging from it. This one has a modern look, but the lady has old-fashioned clothes, but it’s not the old surrounding.”
Alhabashi once did an exhibit in her home town in Palestine, called “Nostalgia,” and she finds all her paintings show this longing and bliss she feels whenever she sees old buildings, museums or when she hears old stories.
“I want people to feel this ecstasy, the out-of-this-world experience even in the flashy ‘Mingle’ pieces,” Alhabashi explained. “I think you can still feel that because of the way people are standing — because of the sadness, although they are in a big party.”
“So this is a common theme in all those pieces Misérables. Mingle and the Farmhouse — they are very aesthetic, they are very serene,” Alhabashi added. Local art professional Carolyn Wright owned a gallery where Alhabashi’s art was displayed for many years. Over the past decade, they have worked together; Wright has come to admire the passion that inspires Alhabashi to create.
“Nancy is a wonderful artist, and she her heart is as big as her talent,” Wright said.
Alhabashi published a book of poems called Soul Whispers which received an Honorable Mention at the London Book Festival in 2015 and considers herself a multimedia artist.
As her style develops, she hopes her paintings will be displayed in a museum. Van Gough, Monet and a little-known artist named Usher are some her top influencers.
During the day, Alhabashi greets customers at her family’s shop, “Nancy’s Candy and Spices” which she has fashioned after the old markets she remembers in Palestine.
Her children have inherited her talent and create their own art. One of her daughters, Rowanne, age 12, has found her niche drawing imaginary characters and making graphic cartoons.
Of her mother’s art, Rowanne said,” I think it’s like you can think while looking at her paintings . . . like when you run, and you just think about what like your life or whatever. That’s how I feel when I look at her paintings.”
“I just like looking — they’re all similar,” Rowanne said. “[With] her paintings, you make up what the point is because it doesn’t have a certain objective that it wants to show you. You just feel whatever you feel. Sometimes I can see sadness in the paintings, friendship or love . . . things like that.”
“Mingle” will hang in the Gwinnett Courthouse until April. The Courthouse is located at 185 E Crogan St. in Lawrenceville. Visitors can see the exhibit during open hours: Monday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and on Saturday, 10:00 a.m. –2:00 p.m.
To learn more about Alhabahsi and her art or poetry, visit her website at www.nancyalhabashi.com.