Louisville Magazine

MAY 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/1108942

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Page 89 of 112

LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 5.19 87 Unbound By Dylon Jones Photo by Mickie Winters is is part of why Vian Sora believes miracles happen: It was 2003, just after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Sora, a promising young artist who'd had successful shows in Baghdad, was on her way back to that city, her home, with her family, having waited out the siege in a nearby village where she painted by lamplight. Baghdad is where she'd dug around in her grandparents' garden as a child, carrying sediment to the fountains to make clay. is is where she had grown up living a double life, keeping her mouth shut during the day about the egalitarian beliefs her family espoused in private at night, and the documentary about the plight of her fellow Kurds they'd secreted into Iraq. is is where, every evening, just before the kids' cartoons, she and her sister found ways to watch Images From the Battlefield, which showed dead Iranians during the Iraq-Iran war — which she describes as "grotesque," "fascinating." is is where her grandfather had kept exotic birds in a habitat he'd made under an outdoor stairwell, where Sora says a "crazy," "hilarious" uncle had bought her a small falcon for her birthday. It was the city where she went to Catholic school, though her family was Muslim, because her parents wanted to broaden her horizons. It's where she'd been hit by a car, an accident that resulted in surgeries and years walking on crutches. It's where she'd attained a computer-science degree from Al Monsour University, though her parents had pushed her toward art school, which she skipped because she didn't want to paint like anyone else. And it was the city some of her neighbors had returned to in coffins wrapped in flags. Before all that, or before the worst of it, her parents had flown her and her sister to Europe often, up until the airplanes were grounded. And now, with Saddam Hussein toppled from power, it was a shelled city, without consistent electricity in the 120-degree summer. Not even generators could make up for the loss of infrastructure. Sora's family's home had been looted. Despite this, after they'd arrived, passing the rubble and the dead, Sora started painting again. Before fleeing Baghdad, she'd been picked up by a Danish company that was organizing a huge show for her in Istanbul. Her mother tried to bring her to reality gently: ey are not coming for you, Vian. But Sora would not listen. In the sweltering heat she stabbed at her noxious oils, filling up all that blank white. She would cope this way in the future as well, starting dozens of paintings in the wake of her grandmother's death, for example, or telling anyone who suggested she see a therapist that her outlet was art, though that outlet has evolved over the years. Back then, she was painting work inspired by fairytales, things distance has taught her to be a form of escapism. But they would end up transporting her somewhere else. ey did come for her. e Danish company, that is. Long story short: ey drove a caravan of four cars to Turkey, where Sora's October 2003 show, Nehir, Sehir, Misairat, took place in the Topkapi Palace Museum. "is is why I believe miracles happen," Sora says. It's a clear day in April, and she's sitting in the sunroom off her accommodating kitchen in the East End, the glass ceiling sloping overhead, while below, her huge koi pond drapes curtains of water down into itself, where a school of the most vibrant koi, at least as big as my forearms, circle lazily. Sora, who was looking for something "zen" when she and her husband moved into this house from their place in Cherokee Park, calls them her dragon babies. You could call much else in Sora's life miraculous. For starters, there's the fact that she still has a life, despite all the death and destruction and persecution Vian Sora finds a home in abstraction.

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