U.S.-based Kathryn Myers on how her work has been infused with the subcontinent's aesthetics
Kathryn Myers has been to India 13 times in the last decade. This professor of art from the University of Connecticut says she misses India whenever she's away, and finds a way to come back. Well, this time she's back for a good six months — on a regional Fulbright Scholarship studying the contemporary art of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
“I'm doing interviews with contemporary artists across India and putting together a series of videos. I'll be using them for the new course on Indian art and popular culture I've created at my University, and also sharing them with other universities,” she says. “Plus, it gives me a chance to learn about the art of Nepal and Sri Lanka, which I don't know as much about.”
But that's just part of it; Kathryn, an artist herself, is also doing or curating shows with local artists in all the different regions she visits. And it begins right here in Chennai, where she's doing a show of her paintings at Cholamandal Artists' Village, along with resident artist B.O. Shailesh. “Emptied Gestures” will be on view till January 8.
“I was in Chennai in 2002, when I came down on a Fulbright scholarship and did workshops at the Government College of Art and at Stella Maris College,” she recalls. “But I also did a lot of whizzing around across India — from Goa to Kolkata — which is how I got in touch with a number of artists from around the country.”
Her fascination with Indian art began in 1999, when she first came down here for an artist residency and fell in love with Indian folk art. Her love for Indian contemporary art came later, strangely enough, during her stint in New York, she says: “Indian contemporary art really took off in the U.S. in the past decade, and I got familiar with it in New York's galleries.”
Today, of course, she's something of an expert on the subject herself. “Publications such as Art India magazine tend to focus on Mumbai and Delhi, but I've come to know artists in different regions and I'm interested in the way they reflect the aesthetic of that area,” she explains.
It isn't just Indian contemporary fine art she loves; Kathryn also has a fondness for Indian architecture (her paintings, for instance, are often composed of images of buildings from cities such as Ahmedabad), and Indian street art.
“I have a collection of photographs of political symbols on the walls of Chennai taken in 2002, and curated an exhibition at my University museum on Chennai's hoardings and other street art,” she says. “That's what I love about India; there's art everywhere, not just in galleries or museums.”
Naturally, she expects to continue visiting the country regularly. “This one is a vast project in itself and I'm sure others will come along as well,” she says. “And when I'm not here, well, I often have Indian artists visiting me in Connecticut!”
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