"Finding Home": Paintings by Siona Benjamin
Another Subcontinent presents selections from "Finding Home", a series of paintings by Indian American artist, Siona Benjamin. The exhibition will be featured on Another Subcontinent till August 5, 2007 and will then be archived in the "Visual" section of our features archive (see links at left). We also include at the end images of four pieces from a new series by Siona Benjamin, "Fereshtini". This series has branched off from the "Finding Home" series, which already contains within it another branch of paintings subtitled "Fereshteh". For more on this see below.
To view this exhibition click on the thumbnails on the right. Each will open a larger image in this center window. To view a fresh set of thumbnails click on the gallery links; to return to this introduction click on "front". Copyright for all images is retained by the artist and these images may not be used, disseminated or displayed without her permission. To join a discussion of the exhibition with the artist and members of Another Subcontinent's forums, click here.
About Siona Benjamin
Her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Jewish Week in New York, "Art Beat" Channel 11 PBS TV in Chicago, NJN TV “the New American Art”, Art and Antiques, The Boston Globe, Art in America, Art New England, St Louis Post Dispatch, India Abroad, The Little Magazine, Asian Art News and Moment magazine.
Siona Benjamin on these Paintings
My paintings also explore female energy and power, as I am inspired by tantric art (of ancient India). The work is informed as well by Indian miniature paintings, Byzantine icons and Jewish religious art from my childhood. It was by studying Indian miniature paintings that I learned composition and color balance. I remember the ornate synagogues of my childhood, the oil lamps, the velvet- and silver-covered torahs, a chair left vacant for the prophet Elijah in the synagogue. Having grown up in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim society, having been educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools, being raised Jewish and now living in America, I have always had to reflect upon the cultural boundary zones in which I have lived.
Recently I have been studying the Torah (The five books of Moses) and Midrash (Rabbinical interpretations). While growing up in India I recall being surrounded by idols and iconography that were taboo in my Jewish world. I eyed these figures from a distance, captivated with their radiance and richness. Since Judaism stressed monotheism and iconoclasm, I somehow resisted the lure of figurative drawing for years. Initially making abstract work and then later, if I did venture to depict the forbidden fruit, my figures were shrouded with darkened faces. Now my work is filled with graven images, as suddenly it became clear during my years studying and designing sets for theater that I liked the narrative, the theatrical, the decorative lyrical line, this ornateness I carried with me all along. These figures have thus become characters in my paintings that act out their parts, recording, balancing, rectifying, restoring and absorbing. It is through all this I understand how I can dip into my own personal specifics and universalize, thus playing the role of an artist/activist.
In "Fereshteh" ("angels" in Urdu), I explore the women of the bible and bring them forward to combat the wars and violence of today in a Midrash (interpretation) of intricate paintings.
My work is celebratory of my womanhood, my abilities, my strengths and my ambitions. After having struggled long with my own hybrid background and experience, I am beginning to see more clearly now that this blend can be humorous, enlightening and revealing. The ornate culture from which I came once seemed difficult and unnecessary to apply in my work. Now I have found a way to use it, to be able to weave current issues and parts of my life in its intricacies, thus making this ornateness strong and meaningful. In this way, I attempt to create a dialogue between the ancient and the modern, forcing a confrontation of unresolved issues.
As I have said, this work emphasizes women's issues and raises questions about identity. The forms, though, may appear unconventional and exotic to some. In this multicultural society, I would like the viewers transcend this apparent exoticness and absorb the core message — tolerance of diversity."
Selected Recent Exhibitions--Solo and Group