With bright colors flooding the walls of her gallery and a even brighter smile strewn across her face, Zahrah Resh is the epitome of the american dream. Resh’s story is just as unique as her artwork. “I was told by teachers and adults that I should not even think of doing art. I always loved it, but when someone tells you something enough times you begin to believe them,” Resh said. It wasn’t until 10 years ago, after a long conversation with her husband Bill, who she met while attending Michigan State University more than 30 years ago, that Resh invested $45 at the local art store to pursue her dream. “Bill and I have a tradition. On New Year’s day, early in the morning, we go for a walk and talk about our plans for the year,” Resh recalls. “One year, at the end of our walk he asked me, ‘ What do you want for yourself?’ At the time said good health and a happy marriage. It took me 10 years to tell him what I really wanted was to be an artist, join a rock band and write a play.” For many, dreams of this nature may seem distant. However, Resh has a plan (not to mention the perfect pair of leather pants) to make her dreams come true. Her husband Bill jokes, “It’s hard to imagine her sitting quietly, if she wants to do it, she’ll do it.” And when asked what she would say to all those people who told her she couldn’t do it, Resh smiles wide, laughs and chides with complete certainty, “We’ll see.” That certainty wasn’t always easy to come by, but with support from her husband, her dear friend Pauline Adams and the encouragement of the Sutton Family, (owners of Sutton Advisors located in the same building as Resh’s art studio) Resh has made up for lost time. While the play and the rock band are still in the works, Resh has come into her own as an artist. Stacks of paintings, mixed media and 3D pieces now fill her gallery, located at 2201 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing. Resh says that in the past 10 years she has grown and changed as an artist and a person. Adams, Resh’s former professor turned mentor and close friend would disagree. Adams says she may have changed as an artist, but as a person Resh is exactly the same as she was in school. “She is the only student who ever came to me before registration to interview me to see if she would take myclass. She made me read all her previous papers to see if she would be successful,” Adams recalls. “She answered all my questions, and I did well in the class, which is saying something because she was not an easy teacher.” Resh responds jokingly. Resh has never been afraid to stray from a predetermined path. Knowing she was different from a young age, Resh says her late mother summed up her personality perfectly when she said, “You never take the shortest route to anything, you always take detours along the way.” However, that is not to say that those detours are free from bumps in the road. After a bout with thyroid cancer in 2004, Resh was worried she wouldn’t be able to continue pursuing what she loved. “It was a difficult year, a very difficult year,” says Resh, “but the illness helped me discover a new body of art, and got me to think about something but me, me, me all the time.” After spending time with her, it’s difficult to even imagine Resh focusing on only herself. As she tells her story, each part includes a new character — someone who has played an intricate role in her life. Even as she speaks of her artwork, it’s not about her, it’s about others, what they think, feel and take away from her pieces. “I want people to find what they want in my art. I hope they are happy, but if they feel something else, that is fine. I just want a reaction, any reaction will do. As long as when they look at my art they are thinking about things differently, I have been successful,” says Resh. “But you know, even if at the end of the day no one likes it, that’s fine I guess, too, because… well, I like it!” Resh doesn’t measure her success in monetary value or even in the number of pieces she has produced; she sees success in the life she has created for herself. “It’s just living, “ says Resh. “It’s doing what you love, and having people support you, encourage you, and believe in you.” Resh’s support group ranges from her large, Malaysian family, to her adopted family, the Suttons, and all the way back to her days at (MSU). Even though not all of them understand where her drive and passion come from, Resh said, “they all want me to be happy, and that is exactly what I am doing.” Resh believes she has reached a point in her life where she can just soak up and enjoy her surroundings, which is one of the reasons the couple relocated from Metro Detroit to the Capital area. “East Lansing is a place where you can enjoy what is happening. It’s full of people who like to get out and do things, and that is inspiring,” Resh says. Resh’s inspiration is derived from many facets of her life, but the one thing she never forgets is the chance she has been given to pursue her dream and build new ones. “I can do whatever I want, if I want to make it happen it’s up to me, but I can make it happen,” said Resh.“That’s the great thing about the American dream and art, no one can really tell you ‘no,’ it’s what you make of it that counts.”
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.