Open Studios at Chhaap

Before I could even fully comprehend, it was my last day at Chhaap. This also meant it was the day of my open studios. I split up my work between Baroda and Ahmadabad so there would be different work for the open studios as well as the solo show at the gallery. The day before in the afternoon Yogesh (the peon at Chhaap) and myself hung the entire show. We worked together with ideas and created something that I was truly proud of. Yogesh is pretty amazing. He does literally everything from documenting work, to bringing you chai, to printing an entire edition and of course being the best assistant while printing. I need someone like that to come back to America with me!

Open studios took place in two intervals. One in the morning and then again in the evening. The middle of the day is way too hot so we knew no one would come. The morning was filled with all of my relatives. They came from Bombay, Ahmadabad and even Kutch especially to support me. I truly felt loved. The evening was also filled with various characters. This included: professors, other artists, students, friends, and even a lovely textile designer. At one point there wasn’t even room to move. I am not one of those people who make art just for myself. I love explaining my process and showing people my water-based inks. I almost think that is equally rewarding as making the actual prints.

Yogesh took down the show in about ten minutes and I was off to finish up my trip in Ahmadabad! But before I could leave, I had to give an interview on the phone. I wasn’t sure if I should speak English or Gujarati, but since he was asking questions in English that is the same way I responded. At the end of it I told Kavita: “I have no idea if he understood everything I said, but I explained in detail!” I was published in two articles in Baroda and they got the jist of it that’s for sure. 

They All Called Me "Ma'am"

I was a little apprehensive about what to expect when teaching my workshop at ITM to architecture students. Hearing a variety of things from various people in the academia world, I was hoping everything would go smoothly. The attitude I have about teaching is that, you have to give the students credit. This sounds corny and cliché but you just truly have to believe in them. I have felt that way from the beginning and still do, which is perhaps why I stay in the profession.

 I started with a presentation about my own work and then jumped right in with a timed drawing exercise. From that warm up they had to choose one of the drawings and create a print. The next project was to express an emotion by not using the traditional colors. For instance, no blue for sadness or red for anger. The first day proved to be a success and I was feeling pretty good about everything. I ended the day with a critique, which was probably one of the more interesting things about the first day. I had the students introduce themselves and pick a print they liked and one they disliked. Basically asking what was a successful print and the opposite. They had to articulate why on both accounts. Most of the students didn’t say anything too negative about the prints but some got into it and was refreshing to hear. One student started the debate of how do you determine what a good print even is? That was very thought provoking in itself and one could spend an entire semester talking about that. 

The students were very polite. They would address me by “maam”. Things like “excuse me maam” or “good morning maam”.  They started off a little timid but warmed up pretty quickly. One of my highlights was during the second day. A student said something in Gujarati and I responded because obviously I understood. He exclaimed “Maam, you can understand!!??” I said: “Yes, I can understand everything all of you have been saying! Thankfully, nothing has been said about me!” They all got a good kick out of that one.

The second day was started with another warm up. I did this same warm up with my 7-11 year old sketching class. I must say those 7 year olds used more imagination but some of these architecture students made a good effort nonetheless. The assignment of the day was to make a 5 print narrative. They had to tell some kind of story in 5 frames. They thought about this for a long time and everyone came up with a wide range of stories. Some were deep, some were funny, some were personal, one was a really corny love story, and all ended up thoughtful. They didn’t all finish but we still had a good critique in the end.

Looking back on how the students interpreted everything, I came to realize they are not given the change to grow an imagination. After 8th standard the whole focus is on the exams. I was comparing the creativity to some of my younger students in America. In America, children are encouraged to express themselves and be unique. That is not completely the case in India. That is the fault of the Indian education system, not the students. Still, these students proved my thinking wrong a little. They took risks and experimented the entire time. They even made a range of abstract prints! All in all everything went smoothly and I think everyone had a good time. I must say this was much much easier than teaching two year olds!



A Little Bit About Process

Up until this trip I never really planned out my work. I would start with a layer and just kind of take off from there. I used to have limited time for my art so this process worked for me. I enjoyed the experimental process and where it led me. Every time I took the paper off the press it was like Christmas, I never knew what was going to happen. I had a studio visit with a friend and after he left he told me to find the balance between intention and intuition. That resonated with me a great deal and I still think about it.

After coming to Chhaap, I had time to slow down the entire process and really think about it. I started with the paintings and they took a huge step forward in the first week. It was my first time really giving any kind of dedicated time to creating acrylic paintings. Someone gave me the advice to try sticking to two colors and try a limited palette. That idea really panned out and was quite successful. I did little thumbnail sketches and some of the main structure stemmed from those. After each mark I knew how to react with the next thing. I came into a routine and was able to grow with each painting.

The monotypes kept the same process. However this time, there was no time restraint. I think that gave me the opportunity to let the ideas just flow organically. I wasn’t sure how the Akua Inks were going to react to the climate of India. It has worked out really well so far. The inks dry faster on the paper. About twelve hours is sufficient. In America it would take a good two weeks to fully dry. If I leave residual ink on the plate, I can come back after two days and still print a nice ghost print which is amazing. I have taken some old ideas and combined them with some new ones.

The prints communicate my experience with the culture. This set of prints talks about my life in India as an American born Indian.  I have found that Baroda is good-sized city for me. It’s pretty clean, not too big. The traffic isn’t completely out of control. I can get around no problem. I haven’t really been ripped off. I know enough to haggle with the rickshaw driver about prices. I wasn’t sure if I would get homesick or really what was going to happen. I had no transition for this trip. I stopped teaching on Friday and was on a plane headed to India on Saturday morning. The thing about India is the hospitality is incomparable to anywhere else. Before I headed to India, I began to tell people about my trip. Just about every Indian person told me they knew someone in Baroda and not to hesitate to reach out. Everyone I have met has had my best interest at heart and has been really helpful. People go out of their way to make you feel at home and there is nothing quite like it anywhere else. I am trying to not take anything for granted while I am here. I am forever grateful to have my Indian heritage. It gives me something to be proud of and something to visually portray every day. 


Radio Mirchi Makes Me Want To Groooove

I have fallen into a nice and peaceful routine here. There is plenty of time for me to accomplish everything that I want to each day. I wake up around 7am and start my day. Around 9am I am done with getting ready, eating breakfast, and catching up on all the missed messages. Then usually the bhaji guy comes right to my doorstep. For less than 100 rupees, I have enough fruits and veggies for the entire week. It’s so amazing! Sometimes while waiting for the bhaji guy I start my prints. I am most productive from about 7am- 1pm. Then sometimes around 4pm I start working again. I usually finish everything I want to by 7pm and then relax or go out. I have enough time to apply to shows and look up opportunities. I can be as busy as I would like to be. The next two weeks are going to get a little busier because I have two workshops coming up that I will be teaching. During my last week in India, I will have a show at Kanoria Art Centre Gallery and one here at Chhaap. I am really excited for both of those.

In the mean time, there are two shows I have been chosen for in North America. The first one is from Alberta Printmakers in Calgary, Canada. I am participating in a print exchange. The second is from the New England Monotype Guild in Attleboro, MA. That one is a juried exhibition. I have included postcards to both below. 

In Thirds

All of a sudden I started having these vivid dreams. It would happen mostly with bold red wines. Never with beer. Or if I wasn’t sleeping well, the only time I would be asleep was for a vivid dream. I would wake up sweating or suddenly thinking “is this real life?” or often even scared.

When I was in Chicago last October I had this vivid dream that I remembered completely. I needed to immediately put it into words so here it is:

So, I had this dream. It was 3 different alternate universes. One was this old time Victorian life where the girls where wearing these elaborate gowns and the houses were these majestic mansions and there was green rolling hills everywhere. Very old time beauty. The next life was in some converted warehouse with all these hip looking people having all these different events in all these different spaces. The third was this long walk parade type thing. The main character girl who I think was me inter looped within the three worlds. So in the long walk she was walk around with different people but also caught up again with this one guy who I think she was sweet for. It wasn't supposed to happen but they had this chemistry so she kept coming back. In the old time world there were all these secret passageways between the mansions and within them. I think there were two main girls in that one. One girl just kept getting tossed aside. She would have these extravagant times with these two guys and eventually she'd pick one but it was never reciprocated and I just remember her long train blowing in the wind all-dramatic. In the warehouse, there were this group of guys who lived in this one area but intermingled around the whole area. They would put on concerts and have these performances. But they would do kind of mundane things as well as make art or write a song. In each of the worlds, this one girl had to sneak around. She would have these grand romantic moments but they could never be anything more than these fleeting moments. 

A friend told me I should make a print about it so I started one but never got to finish the project. The idea is to have something in thirds and then some kind of movement connecting the entire thing.