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DUBAI: If you walk into the new Radisson RED Hotel in Dubai’s Digital Park, you will be greeted by many vibrant, cheerful colors. It is hard to miss the work of Afghan-American pop artist Maria Iqbal, one of the artists commissioned to bring the property alive through art. 
“Literally every nook and cranny of the space is covered with my digital illustrations. It is a Millennial-friendly hotel. Young people are obsessed with social media, hence every surface is worthy of an Instagram shot,” Iqbal told Arab News. 

Born in Kabul, the artist was raised in the UAE, and she has been transforming everyday objects into art for the last nine years. 

“I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember,” she said. “I’ve taken art classes but found them limiting. I studied marketing in college because art schools stressed theory and talk over creativity.” 

Iqbal naturally gravitated towards pop art.

“My work is my commentary on the world, and I want to live in a fantasy world,” the artist said. “I’m not ashamed to say it.” 

There is nothing Iqbal cannot transform into art; she sees the world as her canvas. She started out customizing furniture and has since transitioned to painting bags. 

“I truly believe that art lives among us and not just on our walls or on a canvas,” Iqbal said.

She credits this region for giving her the right platform for her voice.

“Pop art is very popular in this region; the UAE is a young and fashion-forward country.  Since pop culture is very relevant in the age of social media, it has seen a natural progression toward the distillation of pop art, which celebrates fun, boldness, beauty and fashion. Pop art is youthful, hopeful, uplifting and empowering,” the artist said.

Currently working on her first book, Iqbal serves as a great reminder of how you can carve out your own niche and follow your passion.