Thanks to the Indian studies department director and drawing and painting professor Kathryn Myers, about 35 students of varying ethnicity came to see the contemporary feminist artist Kanchan Chander speak about her life and career in India.
It was a cool evening across from Storrs center, behind the polished fine arts complex, a small number of students congregated in a tucked away room at the end of a quiet hallway that smelled of cut wood.
Kanchan Chander, who had an arduous and unstable life, dealt with much tragedy and adversity. When she was young, her only brother died. During her education as a screen printer and painter, she relocated to different schools several times, making her progression difficult. Later, after marrying another painter and having her only son, she divorced. Once again her life was broken, but she carried on and raised her dyslexic son on her own. As she explained in the lecture, though, she found solace in her art. Over the years, her art empowered her son and herself, allowing her to find peace and happiness.
“After a long time, I really began to become patient with my art and my life,” Chander said.
These traumatic events throughout her life are deeply reflected in her work. She described her strong connection to the Hindu goddesses, women and her son, and how this helped her find the strength to carry on.
Chander began the talk with a small video of a day in the life of a mixed media artist in her studio. In a small place, assumed to be in India, we are taken through various spaces in her home. The small studio had few windows, but was colorfully adorned with both finished and unfinished works of her own, as well as works of art from other artists. Decorated with different styles, intricate patterns and vibrant colors, it The influence of traditional Indian art works of classical sculpture and design is apparent.
Between small cups of tea, Chander works meticulously on large-scale mixed media pieces, spending hours at a time on very small detail work using beads, sequins, silver leaf and other miscellaneous items. Although she began as a painter and screen printer, Chander has branched out to many different mediums, all to express her respect and admiration of women and the female form.
The strongest theme through all of her art, three-dimensional or other, was the form of a woman. A vast majority of the pieces of art in her career were depictions of a female torso. She felt that this as a shape was very definitive and symbolic of women and of perception of women in Indian culture. This thinking is what drove Chander to seek other mediums of symbolism in little trinkets relating to the stigmas and common perceptions of Indian women to add to her pieces.
She explained that India is an extremely conservative country in tradition, where men and women have specific and restricted roles within the house and the culture. A feminist artist surviving in this climate is both incredible and inspiring.
“Her art is bold and empowering to women because of the way women are viewed in India. Women don’t have the same opportunities in India as they do here,” said Nikita Roy, a fifth-semester biology student.
Thanks to Chander’s devotion to women, her understanding of the female form is incredibly developed and refined. The beauty in the organic lines of a woman’s body is captured elegantly and cleanly in almost all of her work, which makes for very moving pieces. Her creations demonstrate a firm understanding of composition and movement.
Kathryn Myers, a fine arts professor and personal friend of Kanchan Chander, has been studying Indian art for over 10 years now and said she was delighted to see the turnout of about 35 people, even during midterms.
“Indian art has a tendency to really draw you in because of how connected it is to history, religion, and culture,” Myers said. “The contemporary art scene in India is fairly new and is growing rapidly.”
It was truly a privilege to see into the life of such an interesting and talented artistic protestor.
Dan Wood is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.