Kulsum Tasnif working on this year’s featured artwork.

Kulsum Tasnif working on this year’s featured artwork.


We are excited to have Kulsum Tasnif as our featured artist for the 2019 gala!

"My art is a reflection of who I am today: A person who believes in humanity, peace and love. When someone looks at my work, I would hope that they are inspired by these universal human truths."


VAE: Can you tell us a little about this piece? Was there anything in particular that inspired you?

KT: A few weeks ago, a random elderly woman smiled at me in passing. She reminded me of my mother, and at that instant, I felt a sudden gush of pain. But soon enough, that feeling passed, and I spent the next few weeks thinking about this stranger’s beautiful smile. The constriction my heart felt in that moment was fleeting. The elation I felt after carried me through the last few weeks, including while painting this piece. I am grateful for these special reminders.

This painting is about hope that survives through suffering. I was a humanitarian aid worker in Bosnian refugee camps during the Bosnian war that took place in the early 90’s. 20 years later, I recorded voices of survivors of war from Syria, Afghanistan, Burma, Somalia, and Bosnia, and illustrated their stories for my series, “Journey to The Good Life.” I felt a deep connection to these human beings, and was able to identify with their sense of loss as I had recently witnessed my own parents’ battle and eventual surrender to cancer. It was a devastating period, but also one that brought about many realizations.

Life is full of dualities: Dark and light. War and peace. Hate, but tremendous love. This world can be ugly, but there’s also endless beauty. Rough waves eventually give in to calm seas, and when the storm finally passes, you find serenity. This piece is about remembering the smiles even when it hurts, and finding something to hold on to through chaos and adversity.