George Sakkal, polymath

November 2, 2008 at 2:19 am (Art, Current affairs, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington), Mind/body, Music)

The Columbia Arts Center is currently featuring the work of collagist George Sakkal. The show is entitled “The Art of War: Iraq:  Decisions from the First Year.”  On his site Sakkalarts, the artist explains that what he seeks to present in the fifteen works that comprise this exhibit is not a literal depiction of the war itself

” but rather a plethora of visual portraits and hundreds (maybe even thousands) of vignettes that interpret, analyze and evaluate the policy decisions of the Bush-Cheney Administration that resulted in the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. These policy decisions cover a time-frame spanning several months in 2002 before the invasion up to several months in 2003 following the occupation of Baghdad.”

Here, much reduced in size, are two of the collages:

Descent To Ground Zero

Descent To Ground Zero

Sinking the Ship of State

Sinking the Ship of State

The show consists of thirteen additional images; substantive explanatory material accompanies each of them. Books such as these

play a part in the exhibit.

It is an extremely thought-provoking show. The collages themselves are astonishing, all the more so when you know what this artist has had to overcome in order to be able to make them.

George Sakkal

George Sakkal

“The Art of War: Iraq: Decisions from the First Year” will be at the Columbia Art Center until November 15.


As well as being an artist, George Sakkal also plays jazz guitar. And for some of us, he is George, the aerobics instructor!

George’s classes are characterized by an aggressive approach to having fun as well as getting and staying fit. He has certain movement modules that he repeats in each class, but you never know quite when he’s going to swing into one of these time-honored routines. Thus, there’s a nice balance between repetition and variety. I’ve tried to analyze the reason why these sessions are so enjoyable – even addictive – but I have failed. I only know that whenever I’m able to attend one of them – they’re offered three times a week – it makes my day. (There are ten or twelve other people who attend more or less religiously. I think of us as “George’s groupies.”)

I’ve learned many things about the mind/body connection since taking up aerobics. When I began some eight years ago, it never occurred to hyper-cerebral me that following the routines would engage me mentally as well as physically. Let your concentration lapse – even for a few seconds – and you risk colliding with your neighbor. But when you get it right – it’s exhilarating!

In some exercise classes, the music is simply there to provide a beat to move to. But George selects his music with great care. His taste is eclectic and runs from oldies from the fifties and sixties to Caribbean to country. Not long ago he gave me a priceless gift during cooldown by playing a doo-wop arrangement of the old standard, “Once in a While,” sung by Johnny Mathis. I was immediately reminded of why I remember that style of back-up harmonizing with such affection. And Johnny’s voice – those effortless, soaring vocals! I had never heard this before; now, I can’t hear it enough. Follow this link to the video. Then just listen yourself (and enjoy the great visuals). See if you don’t want to grab someone you love and start dancing!

1 Comment

  1. From aerobics, to old - and great - songs, to perversity, to Poe: a post in which Your Faithful Blooger indulges in some free association! « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] 20, 2008 at 4:06 am (Mind/body, Music, Short stories) During this week before Thanksgiving, George, our aerobics instructor, has inserted an additional exercise for the abdominal muscles into our […]

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