Walk into Adel Karame’s world and it’s one full of monsters, dragons and a few skeletons.
They come in all shapes and sizes, on paper and in the form of three dimensional custom designed gearshifts used to, you guessed it, change gears on a manual transmission car.
A Vernon resident for the past 15 years, Karame has recently shifted gears, quite literally. About to show his art work at The Hub Arts Collective, Karame has unearthed a stash of paintings he created 25 years ago.
“I started painting for something to do,” said Karame. “I made around 100 paintings, some of which I kept under the mattress so no one could see them.”
It took Karame years to finally show his work after meeting Hub owner Matt Brown, who was working at a local car dealership at the time.
“He told me about The Hub, and I said ‘I want to show you some of my paintings because I haven’t shown them to anyone… I thought they were crap. I showed him 100, and he took 99,” laughed Karame.
Originally from Lebanon, Karame discovered his artistic talents as a boy.
“I used to draw landscapes when I was nine. I used to create things that my father would pick up, like a rock that I would sculpt into a heart. I would also make daggers out of wood,” he said.
After leaving his home country to work at a car dealership in Saudi Arabia, Karame not only became interested in race car driving, but in car accessories.
After moving to Canada, he owned several businesses, including a restaurant on the Coast and a pizza shop in Lavington, as well as a body shop supplies outlet, until hard times befell him.
“I lost everything, even the Cadillac I had for 15 years. I lost my house, my restaurant and got divorced,” he said.
Adding to his pain, Karame broke his back in an accident, which left him on disability.
“It took time to recover. I didn’t go anywhere, I was depressed and with the pain, I couldn’t sleep.”
Karame isn’t sure what it was exactly that called to him to get up –– divine inspiration, perhaps –– but it was a sudden awakening that had him make his first custom gearshift.
“I came by some money and went to buy materials. Some are made from wood, fiberglass and metal. From 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day for two years, I didn’t talk to anyone, I watched movies and made my shifters. I think I made 100 or more.”
Calling his business, Adel’s Custom Shifts, Karame placed an advertisement in the newspaper and sold them through local auto part dealers.
“Nothing sold, so I picked them up. I want to thank the businesses for giving me a chance to put them in their stores,” he said.
Not wanting to give up, Karame has started again. He now has approximately 100 shifters, which he says don’t have to go in a car, but can be displayed as sculpture art. And he hopes to sell them and all his paintings to earn enough money to visit his homeland.
Karame says his father is now, remarkably 110 years old and his mother is 95, and he hasn’t seen either of them in many years.
“I am still waiting for a chance to see my mother and father before they die,” he said. “I really appreciate anyone who has helped me so far. I have always worked for myself, but I cannot work now because of my back, but I can still talk and draw,” he smiled.
Karame’s art work will be available to view and purchase at The Hub Arts Collective for the month of April.
An opening reception with Karame takes place Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The Hub is located on 30th Avenue, next to the Towne Theatre.