U.S. Mission to the UAE Artist Grant

The U.S. Mission to the UAE Artist Grant is one of the many ways the U.S. Mission seeks to better connect Americans, Emiratis, and their vibrant cultures in the hopes of establishing a broader and deeper mutual understanding. The partnership dates back to 2016 and past Grant Artists have included Robert Clark, Kiliii Yuyan, Karen Knorr, Guy Brookshank, Meghan Walsh, and Anastasia Mak. This year, we are exhibiting the works of two American artists based in the UAE to explore the country through their eyes. How has their time in the UAE influenced their life, their art, and their journey?


Identity in Location

Location and sense of place are critical components in the formation of our identities. Where we are born, the places we migrate to, and the spaces we move within are essential to establishing our culture, values, and uniqueness. This exhibition presents two parallel selections of work from American artists based in the UAE, each investigating the interrelation of identity and sense of place. Embedded within the local heritage and taking inspiration from Islamic geometric patterns and coral walls, Selma Ćatović Hughes’ Fused sculptures weave together old and new, traditional craft and modern vernacular, to create an artifact that takes on its surroundings and articulates its location as part of its identity. Kirsten Decker’s photo series, meanwhile, presents an identity formed through interactions with far-off people and places. Using projections of stock images against domestic backgrounds, it juxtaposes foreign travel and public spaces with the confinements and solitariness of the home, evoking a sense of longing for journeying and unfamiliar spaces. This exhibition aims to create a dichotomy between the physical place and the imagined place, between the close-to-home and the faraway, to help us understand how our sense of self is molded by the spaces we occupy.

Identity in Location is exhibited in Bayt 7 at Al Jazirah Al Hamra Heritage Village.

Kirsten Portrait

Kirsten Decker

Kirsten Decker is an American artist living in Dubai. After completing her BA in Studio Art at Wheaton College, Massachusetts, and Goldsmiths, London, she taught fine art in Ghana with the Peace Corps, Indonesia with an NGO, and later in Chicago. Kirsten works with analog and digital photography as well as multimedia. She explores themes of nostalgia, childhood, and family and likes to create timeless images that reference the past. Kirsten is inspired by travel, music, memories, and vintage elements. She currently works as a freelance content creator and artist in Dubai.

Selma Ćatović Hughes

Born and raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Selma Ćatović Hughes left her war-torn country in 1995, shortly before the culmination of the three-year conflict. She completed her Master’s degree in Architecture at the University of Colorado – Denver in 2005 and has since worked in architecture and design for over 20 years. Her artistic work has been influenced by her experience growing up during the Bosnian War, contemplating the everyday ordinary – daily events, materials, objects, environments – and searching for the unusual. Intrigued by the concept of beauty, the ritual of (un)veiling, and exploring the fine line between literal and phenomenal beauty, Selma has experimented on numerous mixed media projects of different scales, materials, and functionality. Selma is currently an adjunct faculty at the American University of Sharjah where she teaches Design Foundations in the School of Architecture.