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Local Artists Live: Omar Zubair
April 24, 2021; 10:00 AM–10:30 AM CDT
Composer, actor, director, visual artist, and athlete, Montgomery native Omar Zubair is what might be known as a Renaissance man. Talented in a wide range of different activities, Omar initially planned to pursue soccer professionally and practiced several hours a day with many teams, including the Olympic Development Team. Unfortunately for his soccer career, he suffered a severe injury his senior year of high school—something he cites as “one of the best worst things” to have happened to him, as it diverted his interests towards the arts.
After graduating from LAMP High School, Omar’s explorations expanded—driven by his passion for adventure and inclination towards eccentricity—and he even went on to earn his BA and MA in philosophy from California State University, Los Angeles. Today, his creative practice continues to thrive on variety. “Every day I make music. Probably once every two months, I’ll work on a film. Probably 3 to 5 times a year, I’ll engage with image-making. And about once a decade, I’ll write a book…I think some of the unique features of my own creative practice come specifically from moving a technique developed for one medium to another medium.”
Continue reading to learn more about Omar’s interests and his art, and tune in for his Local Artists Live feature tomorrow, April 24, from 10–10:30 AM, for an experience you won’t soon forget!
This program is part of the series:
Meet the Artist
What is something you appreciate about life in the South?
Because there isn’t a unified cultural scene in the South, there is fertile soil for eccentricity. And eccentrics—by their sheer difference—have no need to compete with one another.
What are some works of art at the MMFA’s that inspire you, and why?
As a kid, Flimp Fountain was a favorite…because of the flimps! In high school, I was introduced to abstraction through Rothko at the Museum [on loan from the National Gallery of Art from 1995–2011], which blew my mind wide open as to the possibilities of expression. Now, I’ve been really excited by the general direction of the new acquisitions—especially After the Rain (Methane) by Jacqueline Bishop.
What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?
Whatever I’m currently working on is almost always my favorite and that is precisely what drives me onward to complete it. But, for the sake of a more engaging answer, I spent 10 years traveling the country developing a new national anthem. It was completed shortly before the pandemic, but its first test runs were potent. The very first performance of it was during a meeting in Montgomery of leaders of different religious, business, and civil rights groups who got together to see if they could coordinate their racial harmony programs. The meeting was going so-so, but no alliances were forming…until we all performed this new proposal for a national anthem. Immediately afterward, there was much hugging and laughing and conversation, and groups started to form, and a second meeting was deemed desirable.
Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in that moment?
In recent memory, the most affecting piece that I have seen is Arthur Jafa‘s film Love is the Message, the Message is Death. I don’t often think about my life or my memories because when I do I start to get vertigo, and this film gave me that sense of vertigo from the absolute massiveness of the collected experiences of a culture and a life.
Tell us about your most preferred place to be on Earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?
Growing up a little south of the Southern Boulevard, there was a swamp about a 10-minute walk away. It was so mysterious and primal and brimming with energy. Then I learned about theories of life possibly emerging from mud pits being struck by lightning, and it began to become the place of my own creation myth.
What drives your creativity?
The social and personal necessity to develop new senses.
What is your preferred medium?
Do you listen to any particular music when you create?
I’ve started a practice of recording the birdsong at dawn wherever my nomadic studio is currently located and playing that recording quietly in the background so that it blends in with the sounds of the atmosphere.
What advice would you give to beginning artists?
What excites you the most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene, and how might we further these efforts throughout our community?
I’d love to see more time-based art. When there was the exhibit of all the projection works recently [Jane Cassidy’s Undersea Well], the Museum became a place where I could sink into an experience; whereas, I often see visitors perusing the galleries like they might at shop windows. Time-based art (sound, projection, performance, etc..) can help give people permission to really dive into a single piece.