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The Art of Exile: A Narrative for Social Justice in a Modern World | Dakota D. Homsey | Gettysburg College


Born in Jerusalem and currently living in exile in Berlin, Sabella’s medium of expression is photography. He has been described as an “[artist] who [is] reclaiming imagination and creating against an occupation that has been physically brutal and corrosive, locally and globally, and hegemonic in discourse and images.”25 I n Steve Sabella’s series In Exile he constructed and imposed melancholy images of his existence in exile. Like Zurob’s paintings, Sabella’s images are imbued with rigidity, linearity, as well as images of boundaries. From a distance, the works appear to be only abstract shapes, but upon closer look you see they are repeated and proliferated images of housing, walls, and apartment buildings in dark, somber colors. This is clearly illustrated in In Exile 1 and In Exile 2 . (Figure 6, and 7). The layered images of this local landscape also consist of violent metal shapes and razors of barbed wire. There is no focal point in the images of the series, and in addition, his imagery is charged with symbolic details. 
In an interview for the Independence Exhibition Catalogue of the Meem Gallery in Dubai Sabella described the works as representative of his internal physique and state of mind at the time. I believe the fragmented nature of the images reflect 26 the fragmented aspects of his emotions. Perhaps the geometric linearity and layered organization of the images symbolically represent his internal struggle to bring order to the chaos exile creates. As noted in the book, In the Wake of the Poetic , “ Sabella once proclaimed, ‘I stitch my wounds with barbed wire.’ The “reconstitution” of self is paradoxically one of violent suturing that has not been able to rid reality of barbed wires, at home or in exile, but remains liberatory. Despite the division and isolation of Sabella’s work, his representation of light creates a suggestion of hope within his depiction of his mind's existence in exile. From behind the thick walls, barbed wire, and windows, emanates a bright light, starkly contrasting with the dark hues of the images. They reflect how, despite the boundaries of exile, exists the resilience of individuals and breakthrough against limitations.


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