A Vision for My Father
The Life and Work of Palestinian-American Artist and Designer Rajie Cook
published 2018 • 9" x 10.75" • 344 pages • full-color throughout
ISBN 9781566560320 • hardback • $35.00 •
“Graphic designer Cook traces the influence of his Palestinian heritage on his artistic career... The son of Palestinian immigrants, Cook was born in Newark, N.J., and rose to prominence in the design world in the late 1960s as one half of Cook and Shanosky Associates, the design firm behind the universal pictograms adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation for use in signage in public spaces. Cook chronicles his childhood, early influences, and his work in corporate design. The focus of the book, however, is his transformation from commercial graphic designer to political artist, spawned by his first trip to Palestine in 1981, where he witnessed ‘the anguish and wails of the Palestinian people.’ His art and design portfolio is easily the best part of the book, particularly the 80 pages showcasing the shadow box assemblages highlighting the emotional toll of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East on Palestinians.”
“A powerful and poignant expression of the Palestinian narrative of exile weaving together the aesthetic and the personal story of longing for home. Rajie Cook’s personal account is an intimate revelation of the special bond between father and son in the context of the Palestinian national identity and experience. This revelation emanates from an emotional identification with an attachment to the father as a visual and artistic celebration of creative expression. The narrative is therefore multifaceted; yet it unravels in the context of an exile in the West that is essentially discriminatory and dismissive of the humanity of the Palestinian people individually and collectively.”
—Dr. Hanan Ashrawi
A REMARKABLE JOURNEY INTO THE HEART AND MIND OF ACCLAIMED PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Rajie Cook is the son of Palestinian immigrants Najeeb and Jaleela Cook who came to the US in search of peace and opportunity for themselves and their family. This memoir is a tribute to them, but evolves into a narrative of how their son made his mark on the international stage of graphic design. For Rajie, art is an organic expression of what moves him, his art activism is his gift to the world.
Sight, what we see and what we think we see, is a major theme in this narrative. On one level, Rajie gives sight back to his father who was blinded in the early 1930’s by the ravages of cataract. Najeeb could not share in the excitement of Rajie’s starting a graphic design firm that was acclaimed for its excellence. Najeeb could not see the symbols Rajie and his partner created which the world relies upon to navigate transportation symbols and public places. He died before “seeing” his talented son shake the hand of an American president.
Perhaps Najeeb’s greatest legacy was his love for Palestine. Rajie has shared his father’s love for the Palestinian people, and began to travel to the Middle East.
Now, using his art as his voice, his camera as a partner, Rajie has lifted the veil of what people see or think they see with regard to the Palestinian people. Some of his photographs are disturbing, his experiences equally unsettling because Rajie narrates the truth as he sees it. The pain of the Palestinian people cries out though Rajie’s art and activism—the horror of the Occupation, the brutality of life that Palestinian children experience every day. Rajie wants the world to see what he has seen, and like his father before him, yearns for peace to come to this troubled and tortured region. The image of Najeeb sitting by his radio is replaced by the image of Roger working in his studio, both men wishing for a peace that seems forever elusive.
His assemblages, posters, and artwork have been featured in art shows throughout the United States and internationally. Provocative yet truthful, Rajie’s vision is recorded in his art. In his own words, “My art will be my voice long after I have gone. It will never be silenced.”
Rajie Cook is an internationally recognized graphic designer, artist, and activist—and the son of Najeeb and Jaleela Cook from Ramallah, Palestine. In 1967, he cofounded Cook and Shanosky Associates, Inc., a design firm, in New York City. He and his colleagues received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1984 for creating the universal pictograms that guide travelers through airports, train stations, and hotels. The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum acquired the Symbols Signs project in 2003. At 54, he made his first trip to Palestine. It was a life-changing, spiritual journey that turned him into a peace activist. Through poster art, sculptural assemblages, and film, he calls attention to the plight of the Palestinian people and the injustices they face. The father of two grown daughters, Rajie Cook lives in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with his wife Peggy.
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