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Hillsboro nonprofit, The Immigrant Story, hosts art exhibit, panel at Hillsboro Brookwood Library.

COURTESY PHOTO: SANKAR RAMAN - Photographer and founder of The Immigrant Story, Sankar Raman, features portraits of women wearing hijabs in his series, 'Who We Are.' The stories of refugees and immigrants from around the world will be on display this month at Hillsboro's Brookwood Library, told through a collection of photographs, paintings and stories.

This collection, titled "We the People," will be on view through Oct. 30.

"I think it is unique that we are trying to approach awareness through art," said Sankar Raman, founder of The Immigrant Story, a Hillsboro-based nonprofit leading the exhibit.

The group has about 20 volunteers, including college students, writers, web designers, journalists and photographers who work to document the lives of refugees and immigrants living in the United States.

This project has a personal meaning to Raman, who immigrated to the United States from India in 1980.

Raman, a photographer, will display his work alongside two other artists, painter Farooq Hassan and photographer Jim Lommasson.

Visitors can also hear Raman, Lommasson and Hassan speak at a panel titled, "We the People," on Friday, Oct. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the library, and will be moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Len Reed, formerly from The Oregonian.

Raman said he was drawn to start The Immigrant Story after the May 2017 MAX light rail attack in Portland.

Jeremy Joseph Christian is accused of fatally stabbing two people and injuring a third on the train after he was confronted for screaming racist, anti-Muslim slurs at two teenaged girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

In response to the news, Raman set out to take portraits of Muslim women in a photographic series called "Who We Are," which can be also seen on The Immigrant Story's website.

"I could have done it grim looking or fashion-like," Raman said, "but instead, I said, 'I am going to shoot them as they are, at eye level'. I just wanted to show them as they are. They are happy."

The women were also interviewed about their takes on the attack and their own personal stories of living in the United States.

"Their emotions are raw," Raman said. "They are talking from their heart."

His portraits first debuted on the attack's one-year anniversary in May 2018 at the Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard.

The exhibit's name, "We the People" is inspired by community, Raman said.

"The immigrants, the refugees — every day you see people that come from different walks of life. I want people to think this could be your teacher, people you come across every day," he said.

PHOTO COURTESY: JIM LOMMASSON - Photographer Jim Lommasson began series 'What We Carried' to commemorate what refugees brought with them after being forced to leave their homes. Lommasson is an award-winning Portland photographer who is featuring work from his series, "What We Carried," in the exhibit. Lommasson's work showcases everyday objects brought to the United States by Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

His photographs feature an object, along with handwritten testimonies from refugees telling their story.

The series has grown to incorporate other refugees around the world, including Holocaust and genocide survivors.

PHOTO COURTESY: GEEZER GALLERY, FAROOQ HASSAN - Painter Farooq Hassan will present several pieces of work at the 'We the People' exhibit, including this piece titled 'Dream.' A third artist in the show, Hassan grew up and worked in Iraq before immigrating to the United States in 2010.

His work hung in galleries including Baghdad's National Art Museum, and was featured on postage stamps through that country's post office after winning a national competition. In 2003, the museum was looted and 10 of Hassan's paintings were stolen.

Hassan and his family stayed in war-torn Iraq for another seven years before moving to the U.S. in 2010. Today, he lives and creates in Beaverton, with his work featured at the Geezer Gallery in Portland.

His paintings are large-scale multidimensional pieces created with oil, acrylic and collage work.

Hassan's bright imagery often depicts images of women, like his paint series "Women in a Glass Box."

PHOTO COURTESY: JIM LOMMASSON  - Painter Farooq Hassan, an Iraqi refugee now living in Beaverton, will display his work at the Hillsboro Brookwood Library. "I use women as a symbol of life, love, and rebirth," he said. "I began to paint Arab folk stories in the beginning of my art life. Then, I changed to this style."

In the future, The Immigrant Story plans to hold more events for Washington County residents to see the exhibit.

To learn more about the exhibit and panel, and to see if The Immigrant Story is coming to your area, visit its website.

By Janae Easlon
Features Editor
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
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