I learned the craft of patterns from my mom. She would spend hours on the floor with me, folding, cutting, and weaving paper scraps to create simple forms that would render me in awe. I would watch intensely as she meticulously embroidered the corners of a handkerchief with beautiful flowers reminiscent of India. I vividly recall believing it to be the most beautiful piece of work that existed.
Yet, the role of mothers, aunts, and grandmothers as artists is repeatedly dismissed in commerce, and their narratives are lost in the larger conversations of art history. In particular, stories of Indian women who have built the celebrated textiles seen globally are folded away in exchange for the historical white lens on the craft. These women are masters of rich traditional skills that have been encoded in practices passed down for generations but the shadow of the “domestic” label casts away any acknowledgment.
Each artwork in this series is a portrait of an individual woman in my family who deserves the accolade that has been robbed of her by this partial lens. I use the imagery of her sarees, a symbol laced with powerful history, to create a form that drapes, pleats, and folds around her concealed figure and subsequent invisible labor. However, a closer inspection reveals hands emerging through the gather of the pallu (pleated end of saree draped over the shoulder) and the use of traditional ornamentation, such as sheeshas (mirrors) which captures the whole room with reflected light - a reminder that these stories are much larger than credited and cannot be ignored any longer. Every artwork uses elaborate hand-painted patterns that take weeks to render. I continue to layer motifs through multiple laborious print processes, parallel to traditional methods, such as silkscreen, laser cutting, appliqué, and embroidery. A careful order to the layering allows me to become more intimate with the narratives of these women and gain awareness of the work that has come before me. Each artwork is an ode to the tireless labor of Indian women.
Hand Painted Silk with Screen Printing, Foiling, Embellished Mirrors, Tassels and Applique.
33 x 24 x 2 inches