When Turner Carroll artist, Natalie Christensen, received an official invitation from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington D.C., to attend the UAE Architectural Delegation, she believed the email was spam. It was nearly overlooked. Christensen, certainly a global artist, is known for her sublime imagery featuring commonplace architecture and streetscape, deconstructed to color field, geometry, shadow and psychological metaphor. Her work has been exhibited in London, Berlin, Bristol, and Dublin, with feature articles in the United Kingdom, India, Philippines, and Germany in the past year alone.
As it turned out, the email was real. She accepted, part of an architectural delegation including thirteen architects, architectural photographers and curators participating in a one-week cultural tour. The goal: an introduction to the UAE’s vibrant arts and culture scene and cultivation of stronger connections between U.S. and Emirati professionals working in the architectural and cultural sectors. Members of her delegation traveled to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and Al Ain. The delegates met with leaders from the UAE’s top cultural institutions and foundations, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Etihad Museum. They visited architectural and heritage sites, such as Burj Khalifa, Masdar City, and Qasr Al Hosn.
For Christensen, this was a once in a lifetime experience. “It was not what I expected. I found the quiet spaces in between the high rises and luxury shopping malls. I pointed my camera toward the car parks, 1980’s apartment buildings, abandoned sports facilities and random street elements. I discovered parallels between my home in the high desert of New Mexico and the desert of the Middle East. Both places are ripe with architectural archetypes—New Mexico with its adobe structures and the UAE with its fantastical, over-the-top architectural marvels.”
The artist will always be curious about the ordinary scenes and spaces no matter where she may be. There is an essence of the magical United Arab Emirates in these lesser-known locations, moments of amusing order and perhaps unquestionable tension. Christensen sought to proclaim the quiet grace of these “spaces in between” to the viewer and to herself.
28 January 2020