Linda Dalal Sawaya—artist, illustrator, writer, teacher, cook, gardener—is the fifth and youngest daughter of Lebanese immigrants from Douma, an archetypal mountain village overlooking the Mediterranean. Sawaya’s art effuses color, texture, and pattern like the Persian rugs embellishing her childhood home in Los Angeles. Her passions emanate from her parents and grandparents: her father an avid photographer and fig tree planter, yogurt-maker, teller of Joha stories; her mother and grandmother outstanding cooks and domestic artists; and her multi-lingual doctor grandfather, whose love of books, art, history, madonnas, Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not, are preserved in layered, collaged journals. Following her grandfather’s love of books that he instilled in her while teaching her to read at 5, she made her first book—an illustrated autobiography—in elementary school. After graduating UCLA in art, her first three month “roots” journey to Lebanon transformed her life as much as her years growing up in a Lebanese-American household full of the people, food, Arabic language, music, aromas, and furnishings of Lebanon intermingled with English, Spanish, and rock ‘n roll.
Following her father into photography beginning with her first camera a Brownie Starflash for her 10th birthday and moving into black and white environmental portraits, her work flowed into ceramics, then a joyful period of graphic design, reaching near-sublimity in painting in a variety of media, next illustrating children’s books.
The natural progression: writing her family cookbook Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking, a tribute to her mother, Alice and grandmother Dalal. Alice’s Kitchen, a cherished book for children of immigrants whose mothers prepared the fabulous Lebanese dishes preserved through generations without writing or measuring, is memoir and labor of love. Teaching has been an integral and joyful part of Sawaya’s art: working in schools doing art residencies with children, creating murals, teaching lebanese cooking classes, and teaching adults collage and Islamic tile painting in her studio. Sawaya’s work has appeared in international publications and has been exhibited in New York, California, Oregon, and Washington.
One recent work illustrating the stories for The Sweets of Araby with tales from the 1001 Arabian Nights provided an enchanting journey into the visual world of her ancestors—real and imagined. Portland’s art and mural Alberta Street in 2016 has a mandala mural designed and painted by Linda Dalal Sawaya on the Black United Fund Building. And in the summer of 2018 Linda painted a sidewalk storm drain mural in Hillsboro, Oregon.
She has recently returned to working with clay and is happy to now have electricity for her beloved mother’s kiln!
2016 • Day of the Dead, Columbia Art Center • Hood River • Siren Nation Celebration, Portland Center for the Performing Arts • Connecting Diversity Through Art • Concordia University Library Gallery, Portland • Celebrate the Middle East, Capitol Hill Library, Portland • Recycled Rain Project, Ford Gallery, Portland • 2015 • Recycled Rain Project, Portland • 2010 • Canvassing Peace, AFSC Friends Gallery • Los Angeles 2009/2010 • Incarnation Icons, Cloisters Gallery, Westminster Church • Portland 2007 • One person exhibiton paintings on clay, Washington State University campus • Vancouver 2006 • Curated Collage-A-matics Class Exhibition WSU campus • Vancouver, Washington • March 4 – April 23, 2006 • Children’s Illustration, Collins Gallery • Portland 2004 • Beaverton Arts Commission, paintings and prints juried group exhibition 2002 • Fetterly Art Gallery Invitational group exhibition • Vallejo, California 2001 • Open Studios • Benicia, California 2000 • Open Studios • Vallejo, California 1997 • “One People” Group Show • Gresham City Hall Gallery 1995 • One person show children’s book illustration • Vita Gallery • Portland 1995 • New York Society of Illustrators “The Original Art” Show children’s book illustration • NY • Beaverton Arts Commission • paintings and photographs juried group exhibition • Oregon 1994 • Third World Art Exchange Acrylic paintings on clay group show • Los Angeles • Pacific Arts Photography Gallery color photographs • Portland 1993 • Buckley Center Gallery, U. of Portland, group show • Portland • Hoffman Gallery, Oregon School of Arts & Crafts juried student exhibition • Portland • “Diversity for the 90’s” multicultural group exhibit Willamette University • Salem, Oregon 1992 • Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center Gallery, We Speak Mural • Portland • Oregon Women in the Arts multi-media evening celebration of 50 Oregon artists • Portland • Culture Shock Gallery, Portland, March • “Visionary Women–21 Multicultural Artists”, group exhibition, paintings 1991 • de nada gallery One-person photographic exhibition Mexican fishing boats • Portland
•Oregon Reads Aloud, 2016, MeshMesh story illustrations, published by Graphic Arts Press •The Sweets of Araby, 2011, cookbook illustrations, published by Countryman Press • Saudi Aramco World Magazine, 2009/2010, “Memories of a Lebanese Garden” cover art featured on 2010 Six Decades Calendar • The Heirloom Gardener Magazine, Spring 2009, Linda was interviewed for an article on Lebanese kitchen gardens with recipes from Alice’s Kitchen • Encyclopedia of Arab American Artists, 2008, one of 100 artists represented • Saudi Aramco World Magazine, 2006, “Cooking with the Caliphs” illustrations • Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking wrote, edited, illustrated and published Lebanese family recipes, 1997, 2005 • The Herb Companion, 1999, “Food for the Soul” illustrated article on Lebanese herbs • The Space Between Our Footsteps, Simon & Schuster, 1998, anthology of art and poems from the Middle East • Aramco World Magazine, 1997, “Memories of a Lebanese Garden”, illustrated article excerpt from Alice’s Kitchen • The Little Ant/La Hormiga Chiquita, 1995, children’s book illustration, Rizzoli International, NY • How to Get Famous in Brooklyn, 1995, children’s book illustration, published by Simon & Schuster, NY