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. 

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. 

Arrived at Chhaap!

Baroda has the best art school in the entire nation of India. This means that Baroda has a thriving art scene. Two thousand artists live here. It’s really not THAT big of place! I went to two openings yesterday and it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The first one was at a gallery called Nazar in Lal Bangalow (red mansion).  There was a nice flow to the space and a few interesting pieces. Outside there was a full spread of all kinds of foods and drinks. Since Gujarat is a dry state, there was no alcohol like in the states. The next opening we went to was put together for women’s day. We got there and it was elaborate, a little crazy in my opinion. There was so much to look at and the first thing I said was: “where’s the art?” All these ladies were dressed to the nines and I was still in my studio clothes. Most weddings in America aren’t even that fancy.

The thing you have to understand about artists in India is that there is little creativity. I am almost more impressed by the traditional crafts and designs you find. There is real technique behind all that work. The main person in charge at Chhaap was explaining to me that if you tell students to come up with their own idea they have literally no idea what to do. She said if you tell them make a 4X4 drawing with a flower here and a leaf there, they would be able to do that. I did not think that would be the case at all.

While I am at Chhaap, I am going to conduct a lecture, workshop and have a show of my own at the end. I am so excited to get working. I started making some small paintings yesterday. I decided that they look a little too happy for my taste. Since when is that a bad thing? Ha! 


Coming Back to the Original Inspiration

I got the opportunity to take some time off work, so I wanted to take full advantage. Originally, I wanted to find a residency or something in the states, but nothing was really meshing. Instead I found Chhaap. In Gujarati (my native language), chhaap means impression. The name itself was enough to steal my heart. I began the process of contacting the foundation and everything seemed to work out.

Right before I was about the buy my ticket, my mom came up with the idea of surprising her dad and our family in India. I am absolutely awful at keeping surprises, but I am proud to say the entire surprise was a complete success! Being able to witness everyone’s expressions was surreal. They literally had no idea.

The first art related experience I got to encounter was attending a lecture and demo by Japanese woodcut artist Katsutoshi Yuasa. He explained the history of Japanese woodcuts up until contemporary prints. I already felt the creative juices flowing and completely inspired. I choose to hand print all my woodcuts and the process is very similar to the Japanese style. The difference is some of the tools. Next, Katsutoshi did a demonstration. I will be sure to use some of the techniques while I am in India on my own woodcuts.

Somewhere in high school, I let go of my passion of dance to fuel all of that creativity into making art. I grew up loving projects and anything creative but didn’t really have that much formal training. At the end of high school I took AP art and started at Pratt Institute the following year. My heritage and culture had an immeasurable impact on my aesthetic. I drew inspiration from henna designs and peacocks. The colors and textures all found their way into my work. Over time as I began to explore the realm of printmaking at Southern, my designs became more abstracted to the point of merely hinting at the original inspiration. The designs and colors explained my experience with the culture instead of merely reproducing it. My work depicts life experiences through the way they interact with layers of ink on paper. The way I deal with ruminating thoughts is to put them into a visual representation.

Every time I come to visit India, I leave with a changed perspective and newfound appreciation. I am looking forward to what this trip has to offer!