Cultural Absorption and X-ACTO Knives: A Profile of Jordan Nassar By Emily Diamond
Jordan Nassar’s work is threaded with activism, speaking to issues of both cultural and sexual difference. His heritage as an Arab-Polish-American is ever-present in his work and conversation.
Jordan's husband was born and raised in Israel and this has allowed Nassar the opportunity to spend more time there than he imagined possible, especially as a gay man. His fascination and commitment to Arab and Israeli culture is passionate. He loves both cultures and, perhaps surprising to some, sees them becoming more and more alike. He calls this cultural absorption, the natural process where two cultures do not appropriate each other but slowly overlap and fuse. Nassar was born in New York City to a Polish mother and a Palestinian father.
He grew up on the Upper West Side and spent his youth trying to stifle his sexuality until coming out at 19, when he went to Middlebury College in Vermont. After graduation, Jordan spent about six years in Berlin where he met his now husband and fellow Twyla artist, Amir Guberstein. When he and Guberstein moved back to New York three years ago, Nassar was struck by how much the city and young gay people had changed since he was growing up. “I am just in awe of these kids who are 18 and just go for it [and] walk down the street however they want,” Nassar says.
His fascination and commitment to Arab and Isreali culture is passionate. He loves both cultures and, perhaps surprising to some, sees them becoming more and more alike.
While Nassar is known for elaborate and time-consuming embroidered pieces, he also makes zines. “The embroideries take weeks or months,” Nassar says. “[Zines] are a way to be more direct and experimental without so much investment.” He makes them by cutting pieces of black and white copy paper with X-ACTO knives. For one, he used Instagram photos of a beautiful young gay Arab dressed in drag named Tarek Sukkar. In Nassar’s Aladdin and Jasmine-themed zine, Tarek is both Aladdin and Jasmine. Nassar refers to him as his muse.
Nassar is reflective about his life as an artist with Guberstein. “We live in this artsy, liberal, very gay bubble. Sometimes I forget that I’m married and that’s very extreme for some people,” he says. Jordan acknowledges how grateful he is to live in a place where he and his husband can both be artists and feel comfortable. “I feel so boring and normal. It’s crazy...I forget that we are very alternative because I have my house, I have my dog, and I cook dinner and do laundry.” Far from boring, Jordan Nassar is an accomplished artist with a unique take on tradition that speaks volumes about his future as an activist and creator.