Daliah Ammar: Cognitive Resonance

The works of Daliah Ammar are the convergence of corporeality and spirituality. The 21-year-old Palestinian-American painter and Chicago native examines the human physique, extracts its essence, and renders it on canvas. Her medium of choice, oil painting, allows her to meticulously refine pieces as she sees fit. As she explores the themes of frailty, self-perception, and poignancy, Ammar crafts enchanting images that strike a chord with anyone who observes them.

dai4In elementary school, Ammar was obsessed with drawing. During class, she spent most of her time drawing in notebooks, much to the chagrin of her teachers. While some students scribble in their notebooks out of sheer boredom, Ammar did it fervently. Her artistic inclinations were so overpowering that she couldn’t control herself. When Ammar entered high school, she became intrigued by photography and even considered pursuing it as her major in college. Throughout most of her life, Ammar has struggled with her self-image. She initially pursued photography because it was a way to keep herself behind the camera rather than in front of it.
During her junior year of high school, Ammar gravitated to more traditional art mediums, which later led to her love of oil painting. After starting college at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she’s become even more proficient in oil painting. This medium perfectly complements Ammar’s own self-described indecisiveness because she can continually experiment at her leisure.

In order to confront her feelings of insecurity, she transferred them into artwork. Ammar then began using herself as the focus of her works. Her self-portraits stem from pensive and private moments. In solitude, Ammar becomes attuned to her own thoughts and emotions, which manifest as flashes of brilliance. “Most of my inspiration comes to me in large bursts, usually late at night,” she explained to Golden Boy Press, a film, writing, music, and art e-magazine. “I’ll have almost fifty ideas at once screaming at me, trying to get my attention. I quickly sketch them out, and then try my best to decipher them later. It can take three of these episodes for me to get a solid idea for a piece.”

dai3One of her self-portraits, “Dopamine (Pillow Talk),” evokes a sense of vulnerability. Ammar’s intense gaze pierces and resonates with viewers. Her desolate eyes are evocative of someone who’s been sapped of their vitality. As she lies sideways on her bed, the burdens of her thoughts and emotions are evident in her sullen countenance. With this piece, Ammar unveils her own sense of fragility; a sensation that everyone has or will experience in their lifetime. As she told Golden Boy Press, “The most prominent themes in my artwork are those that expose the vulnerability of the human psyche; more specifically through the self.”
Through her paintings, Ammar fosters a rapport with viewers. Looking at her works is like peering into the inner depths of your own subconscious, which is why most people can identify with these paintings. In an interview with multi-interactive publication PoetsArtists, Ammar explained, “I want to be able to create an unspoken relationship between myself and the external viewer by using my own personal experiences.”

Although many of Ammar’s works are self-portraits, she’s started to use other people as models. In contrast to self-portraiture, which is almost second nature to her, painting other people is more painstaking because she finds it difficult to bond with them on an emotional level. Nevertheless, she continues to challenge herself by painting a variety of people from different age groups, ethnicities, and genders.


Daliah Ammar may be a young artist, but her skills are well beyond her years. Her self-immersion through artistry is exceptional, and her pieces are gripping. As such, she’s begun to gain recognition for her efforts. Ammar’s paintings were displayed at ArtBash, an art exhibition at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and she was published on the cover of art magazine iARTistas. In August 2015, her painting of Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot Tenenbaum from the Royal Tenenbaums was featured in the Spoke Art Gallery’s Wes Anderson art show in New York City. As she progresses in her studies and artwork, Ammar will undoubtedly emerge as a preeminent artist.

-Elijah Yarbrough