A couple years ago, I decided to step away from architecture.
I needed to take the next step didn’t know where to put my foot. I considered returning to Art History, but the thought of getting a PhD ended that idea.
I started working on a project of bringing different parts of the Indian diaspora together in an online magazine. I had started interviewing artists who were involved with India in a creative way - textiles, photography, cooking, fashion, painting. I had made some progress but was starting to feel uneasy about it.
I realized I didn’t want to feature other artists, but that I wanted to be one of them.
I pondered the idea and even took an art class with a friend because we both wanted to get our art hands moving again. She and I had both followed the prescribed order of traditional academics, but our hands were itching to create.
And then it happened. A man endorsed by the KKK became US president.
The day after the election, I created this collage in our class.
It was obvious that with a sexual assaulter elected president, women were going to be covered and blocked by men in power. Obama’s second term had apparently given me too much hope. The backlash had begun and open racism would once again be the norm. Like many others, I found myself in a position of sadness and anger.
Then, I saw this:
There he was. Smiling. And it wasn’t just a regular smile. It was a gleaming, gorgeous ‘I-did-what-I-could-and-maybe-you-all-could-have-helped-a-little-more-because-I-made-a-real-contribution-and-then-some-and-if-Richard-Branson-invited-you-to-his-private-island-you-would-go-too-but-he-only-invited-ME-and-my-family’ smile. A ‘p.s.-Oprah-is-here-too’ smile.
Since I no longer had Obama for hope (he deserved the vacation), I turned to another imaginary friend - Art History.
If you look at any art - painting, sculpture, jewelry, fabrics, music, cuisine - you see there is no ‘race’ of people. Borders have changed since the first one was drawn. Visual patterns are similar across cultures because people are similarly inspired by nature or animals. Musical styles and recipes are similar across cultures because people moved and shared. We are people mix and mingle and share and blend and we always have.
I am not naive. I know that the migrations were often though war or colonizing and the sharing was not always friendly. However, I know we can all learn from each other. Maybe I want to see something good in humanity. Maybe I want physical proof of this good and find it in art. As we have all heard, what unites us is greater than what divides us. I deeply believe in the beauty of all cultures. The people who create division are selfishly doing it to amass power.
I decided to focus on the beauty of what we all have in common and give it a physical form through jewelry.
I love finding what symbols and styles we have in common. Maybe it comes experiences like watching my high school French exchange student friend Camille teach me how to make authentic crepes, and hearing my mom over my shoulder say in Hindi “It’s just like a dosa”. At the time I was annoyed that she found a similarity to India in everything, like the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But now I find myself doing the same. And I love it. And yes I think my kids get annoyed.