On Tuesday night, the William Benton Art Museum continued its investigation into water with the internationally renowned artist Vibha Galhotra. The New Delhi native talked about where art, the environment and activism fit into the debate around belief and reality demonstrated through her work.
Galhotra received her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the Government College of Arts in Chandigarh and her Masters of Fine Arts at Visva Bharati University. Since graduating, she has traveled the world to display her art. Her works have been featured not only throughout India but also in Italy, New York and North Carolina.
Like many artists, Galhotra views her job as an artist as more than just making compelling art. She challenges society by raising relevant questions through her art. Galhotra’s large-scale sculptures, moving photographs and abstract paintings discuss the environmental issues that plague New Delhi, some of which include water contamination and unsafe air quality. “I think being an artist you are socially responsible and you are always thinking what I can do best or how can I pose questions for my society?,” Galhotra said.
Much of Galhotra’s work centers around water pollution in New Delhi. In a series titled “Sediments and other Untitled,” she uses the polluted sediment as her medium. She splashes the dark sediment over the large white canvases to make a statement about the poor water quality.
In another piece, Galhotra compares two blankets, one soaked in the river upstream of the polluted New Delhi river and one soaked in the polluted water. The difference is undeniable even in a picture. The former is still mostly white whereas the latter is caked in dirt and a dark slime like substance, indicative of water contaminated with sewage.
Despite the dismal and concerning topics of her work, Galhotra hasn’t lost hope. “There is a lot of hope actually. It’s very important for people to know their rights for a clean environment,” Galhotra said. “That’s really the question I’m raising right now. Politics and economics… need to come hand and hand to make this pledge to a clean air environment.”
Colin DeLeo, a first semester studio art major, found inspiration in the conversation. Galhotra’s work speaks to a larger “call to action,” DeLeo said. “She didn’t accept anyone telling her what to do and she wouldn’t accept somebody taking away her right to breath even. She wants to let other people know that they can do that too.”
This call to action and deep sense of personal responsibility that she spoke of were not just directed at the other artists in the room, but to all people.
Emma Simard, a first semester studio art major, said, “She had the attitude that she’s the only one in charge of her life… She doesn’t let anything influence that.”
Alex Taylor is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.