Memento: Muriel Hasbun Photographs
Since 1990, Muriel Hasbun has examined her complex cultural identity through an artistic exploration of family history. The many ethnic and religious cultures that comprise her heritage, and the diasporas that led her parents’ families to the Americas, are the subject of work combining her own photographs with snapshots, personal texts, even physical remnants of her childhood surroundings and those of her parents. Seeking a kind of realism laced with magic, Hasbun explores a world of shadows that survive their sources, bridging past and present to restore bonds separated by time and distance.
I come from peoples in exile…. My mother was born in Paris to Polish Jewish parents who settled in France just before World War II. My father was born in El Salvador to Palestinian Christian parents who settled in Central America shortly before World War I. I was born and raised in San Salvador and now live in Washington, DC. So I follow my family’s legacy of exodus…
A child of disparate cultures, rooted in one country but with origins traceable to many others, Muriel Hasbun grew quite naturally into an itinerant spirit and a belief that she, like her parents, was fated to exile. Her paternal grandparents emigrated to Central America as part of a Palestinian exodus occasioned by war, and nearly thirty years later her mother’s parents left Poland for France in the face of another war, and the impending persecution of their people that became the Holocaust. Hasbun herself grew up in El Salvador, a country beset for much of her childhood by pronounced political tension. She left for college in the United States at the height of El Salvador’s civil war, deeply attuned to schism, to conflict within.
Hasbun studied French literature at Georgetown, and photography at George Washington University, where she received a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1989. She came to the practice and theory of art easily; her father is a photographer, her mother, an art dealer. Photographer Ray Metzker, a visiting professor at George Washington, became an important mentor. Hasbun was especially inspired by Metzker’s pursuit of visual mystery through the fragmentation and synthesis of disparate pictorial elements. In her master’s thesis project, Hasbun also cited surrealist artist Man Ray’s photographic “dematerializationand transfiguration” of material reality as a major influence.