Round clay slab with leaves imprinted into it. In the background are the leaves that were pressed and a knife.

CREATORS – Hessa Al Ajmani

In ALL, CREATORS by McKenzie Prillaman

Name: Hessa Al Ajmani

Which came first in your life, the science or the art?

Growing up, I had always been surrounded by both science and art. My dad graduated with a fine arts degree in photography and later specialized in forensic photography. My mother graduated with a biology degree but would always be crafting things with her hands, like sewing dresses and drawing. I was a curious child who just had to explore every nook and cranny of the house and garden. At the same time, I wanted to turn my turtle into an artist by having him having him walk across a canvas to spread the paint across it.

Which sciences relate to your art practice?

Nothing in particular because it’s mostly fed by curiosity and observation, and that applies to all sciences. In the past, my work has been fed by biology, physics, cosmology, ecology, alternative medicine, and my background in psychology. My current work with ceramics deals a lot with chemistry and botany.

Three white plates with imprints of dill flowers. The flowers have been painted yellow, red, and pink.
Drink Your Medicine Plates (2019) by Hessa Al Ajmani
Four mall white cups without handles with painted imprints of flowers.
Drink Your Medicine Arabic Coffee Cups (2019) by Hessa Al Ajmani

What materials do you use to create your artworks?

I’m always incorporating mixed media in my work. For my Biological Landmarks series, I’ve used graphite pencils. As for my Flesh and Bone, Fur and Stone installation, I’ve used a material called Anzaroot, which is a plant-based resin that was used locally in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the past to cast broken bones, which I then mixed with plaster and sand. In my current work with ceramics and Drink Your Medicine series, I use handpicked wildflowers and plants from the desert and my mother’s herb garden to press into clay.

Back of woman's head with hair up to reveal a scar extending from the base of her neck upward.
Biological Landmarks: Tarfa (2015) by Hessa Al Ajmani, 97 cm x 127 cm, graphite, oil based white pencil, white gel pen on BFK Rives paper. Tarfa’s scar came to be after she had undergone a surgery to remove a brain tumor when she was 15.
Closeup of a hand. A tattoo shaped like the number 3 sits at the base of the hand.
Biological Landmarks: Mary (2015) by Hessa Al Ajmani, 97 cm x 127 cm, graphite, oil based white pencil, white gel pen on BFK Rives paper. Mary got her tattoo in the Philippines, which stands in contrast with the eczema that affected her skin after working in the UAE.
Closeup of a woman's clavicle with its extra bone.
Biological Landmarks: Sara (2015) by Hessa Al Ajmani, 97 cm x 127 cm, graphite, oil based white pencil, white gel pen on BFK Rives paper. Sara was born with the little extra bone on her clavicle.

Artwork/Exhibition you are most proud of:

I enjoyed working on my Flesh and Bone, Fur and Stone installation, which was created for the Emirates Fine Arts Society’s 35th Annual Exhibition held at Sharjah Art Museum. The process took me on a physical and emotional journey across the mountains of the UAE, where the Arabian Leopard was native but recently became extinct in the wild due to loss of habitat. I incorporated Anzaroot as an element that was traditionally used to heal, and that was a natural material sourced from the same land that the Arabian Leopard had belonged to.

Flesh and Bone, Fur and Stone installation, which looks somewhat like a cheetah pattern, but 3-D and raised like a mountain range.
Flesh and Bone, Fur and Stone (2017) by Hessa Al Ajmani
Closeup of Flesh and Bone, Fur and Stone installation.
Flesh and Bone, Fur and Stone (2017) by Hessa Al Ajmani
Hand holding crushed Anzaroot.
Flesh and Bone, Fur and Stone (2017) by Hessa Al Ajmani, Anzaroot

Which scientists and/or artists inspire and/or have influenced you?

I find Tyler Thrasher and Curt Hammerly’s practices very inspiring for the way they similarly incorporate scientific and technical methods to their artwork. I’m also currently very interested in Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval’s books relating to their theories of a forgotten prehistoric advanced civilization.

For more by Hessa Al Ajmani, visit her website or Instagram.

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About the Author

McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie is a fledgling science communicator working at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has a background in neuroscience, and was a research assistant at the University of Virginia and a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health. After years of thinking she’d become a neuroscience researcher, she discovered her passion for sharing science with others. That finding, in combination with her lifelong dabbling in the arts, led her to write for Art the Science's blog. In her free time, she can be found volunteering with the Smithsonian Associates studio arts classes, trying new foods, and wandering around her home of Washington, D.C. Twitter: @meprillaman