BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Visitors to Dr. Arshia Qasim's Walls & Windows art exhibit at the new Alhamra Art Center in Bernardsville likely will find that her work will opens new worlds, instead of placing a wall between cultural connections. But technically speaking, that's not what the Basking Ridge artist and physician said she was referencing with the name of her exhibit.
Dr. Qasim, who is a neurologist as well as a wife and mother to two sons, said she has always considered herself an artist. However, she said it was just about five years ago that she started posting her artwork on Facebook, using Windows on her Facebook wall.
While leading a tour of her art pieces on display at a reception for the opening in February, she joked that she would take photos to put on her Facebook page, or "Did it really happen?"
The artist also has posted a YouTube video talking about her painting, "Play," which portrays how children should be playing at activities such as hopscotch or learning the piano rather than becoming "collateral damage" in war-torn regions. The painting is a centerpiece in her exhibit, which is fully titled "Walls & Windows: A Spiritual Travelogue."
Dr. Qasim's paintings, portrait sketches and calligraphy, which will continue on exhibit for about another month, mixes both timely and eternal subjects. Her subjects and style reflect her deep religious faith, her sense of history and culture and her love of learning and family - along with her involvement in Facebook, YouTube and other social media.
During her tour, she talked about the frequent theme in her work of portraying the universality of what is common to religions, and humanity. She also expanded upon some of her special interests, such as calligraphy, noting the "symmetry and balance" in the written forms that she said can carry over into life.
Exhibit could travel to the United Nations
The exhibit remains on display into March at the center, located at 21 Claremont Road in Bernardsville - but it may move on to an even larger venue.
Along with art fans and Dr. Qasim's friends and families from the Somerset Hills and beyond, the opening of her exhibit also attracted the United Nations Ambassador from Pakistan, where Dr. Qasim was born.
Dr. Maleeha Lodi, ambassador for Pakistan at the United Nations, was the keynote speaker at the reception. "I think we need to bring [this exhibit] beyond New Jersey - we need to bring it to the UN," she said.
The ambassador added that she believes the United Nations, headquartered in New York City, should bring people and countries together. "These are challenging times. But challenging times bring opportunities," she added.
Dr. Qasim said she had met Dr. Lodhi on many occasions at the UN. "She is a big promotor of arts and culture of Pakistan, and is a true feminist, who always breaks stereotypes and enables growth and development."
Dr. Qasim is the president and art director of the Alhamara Art Center. Along with creating artwork that she says has as its core a "spiritual essence," she and the new center also look to art as a path to healing in a physical sense.
The neurologist said she has studied the effects of art on brain development and rehabilitation.
During the tour, she also pointed to drawings by her brother, who was severely injured in a vehicle accident, and turned to art as a means of rehabilitation. She said he has now gained renown as an artist in Pakistan, where he lives, and is simply known as by his first name, Barkaat.
Dr. Qasim said she specializes in oil and acrylic painting, portrait sketches, calligraphy and creating spaces, and even furniture rehabilitation. Her work is available for sale.
She said she is also in the process of completing her first book of poetry for publication.
Center offers art as rehabilitation therapy
The Alhamara Art Center is working in collaboration with the Somerset Hills-based Community in Crisis Organization to offer art as rehabilitative therapy for individuals and families struggling with substance abuse to apply their energies in positive ways. A lecture series on the role of art in brain development and the effect of art creativity on certain neurological conditions is planned.
Dr. Qasim said she has been taking a break as a practicing neurologist since her family moved to Basking Ridge in June 2016, and she has been devoting more time to her passion for the arts. Along with the exhibition, she said she has been designing courses and workshops about how art aids neurological rehabilitation.
More information about the center is online.