New Exhibition Merges Past with Present

A Syrian American artist explores cross-cultural themes in her work.

Diana Al-Hadid
Diana Al-Hadid's new solo show is on display at the Momentary. Courtesy: Lisa DeLong

Brooklyn-based artists Diana Al-Hadid uses a wide range of materials to explore notions of memory, ruin and progress, and some of her newest works are on display in an exhibition that opens today at the Momentary in Bentonville. 

Diana Al-Hadid: Ash in the Trade Winds features 10 works including wall panels, drawing and sculptures, all created between 2018 and 2021. The artworks, many of which are being shown for the first time in a contemporary space, highlight Al-Hadid’s unique process of dripping, layering and melding classical and contemporary materials in decaying forms, according to a press release.

The new exhibition is organized by the Momentary and curated by Kaitlin Garcia-Maestas, who says the artist’s “ability to weave the past into our contemporary moment, combined with her unwavering commitment to expanding the formal possibilities of architectural materials,” is fitting for the contemporary arts venue.

Ash in the Trade Winds encourages slow looking,” Garcia-Maestas says. “Diana interprets her references through approximations, or her memories of things she’s read, works she’s seen, etc. and reimagines themes into new forms, giving them new life and purpose for her audience to contemplate.”

The show’s title is a reference to a work of the same name. In this piece, diagonal splashes of copper and gold leaf illustrate the movement of trade winds, which primarily move from east to west. This is a metaphor for Al-Hadid, who was born in Syria, but raised in the United States.

Ash in the Trade Winds
Ash in the Trade Winds, 2020. Photo courtesy: Timothy Doyon

The exhibition also features works inspired by the story of Gradiva, a fictitious female character from a Wilhelm Jensen novella of the same name. Gradiva is a classical relief sculpture who comes to life in the protagonist’s hallucinations, which take him back to 79 CE, the year of Mount Vesuvius’ deadly eruption.

“I like to point a spotlight on lesser-told stories or speak to the broader context for the stories we know or take for granted,” Al-Hadid said. “I’m compelled to find patterns or similarities in stories that exist across cultures.”

Drawing inspiration from literature, architecture and art history, Al-Hadid’s work dissolves female forms and landscapes into approximations of their original source.

Diana Al-Hadid: Ash in the Trade Winds is on view through June 13. The exhibition is presented in both English and Spanish. Admission is free. More information is available at