October 3, 2017 - January 5, 2018
Blue Like Me
This exhibit is generously supported by Jane and Arnold Kahn.
Siona Benjamin: Blue Like Me
Indian-born, New York-based artist Siona Benjamin creates a unique visual language that presents her transcultural, transnational view of the world.
My work reflects my background and the transition between my old and new worlds. Having grown up in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim society, having been educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools, having been raised Jewish and now living in America, I have always had to reflect upon the cultural boundary zones in which I have lived. In this transcultural America I feel a strong need to make art that will speak to my audience of our similarities, not our differences as I feel I can contributed to a much-needed “repair” (Tikkun) through my art. I would like my audience to re-evaluate their notions and concepts of identity and race, thus understanding that such misconceptions could lead to racism, hate, and war.
I am a Bene Israel Jew from India. My family gradually dispersed, mostly to Israel and America, but my parents remained in India. I am now also an American, living and working in New Jersey, but still recall the ornate synagogues of my childhood, the oil lamps, the velvet- and silver-covered Torahs, a chair left vacant for the prophet Elijah in our Bombay synagogues. In my paintings I combine the imagery of my past with the role I play in America today, making a mosaic inspired by both Indian/Persian miniature paintings and Sephardic icons.
I think it is important to view the world outside of the bubble of one’s own country, religion and race. I believe that art can be an important vehicle in this endeavor. This involves not just presenting to my audience the uniqueness of immigrant cultures, but going beyond this in exploring that what is being born out of the specifics of that immigrant culture.
Very often I look down at my skin and it has turned blue. It tends to do that when I face certain situations of people stereotyping and categorizing other people who are unlike themselves. I have therefore over the years developed many blue-skinned characters in my paintings. This blue self portrait of sorts takes on many roles and forms, through which I theatrically explore ancient and contemporary dilemmas.
In making my characters come alive and enacting their stories, (besides Jewish myth, I am also inspired by Indian goddesses like Kali and the famous blue god Krishna), I show how these characters use their blue skin to tell (or mostly retell) stories. In this process of recycling and rejuvenating, they remind me that myth making is cyclical and timeless. Thus the blue skin has become a symbol for me of being a Jewish woman of color.
Location: Kurland, Stairwell, Gallery, Atrium
Oct 29 @ 5pm:
See More of Siona Benjamin's Artwork: Artist's Website
200 N. San Pedro Road