10.24.2017 / Chitra Ganesh

girl water globe_

Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 7 pm

Timken Lecture Hall, SF Campus

Chitra Ganesh was born and raised in Brooklyn and Queens, and is currently based in Brooklyn. She completed her BA in Comparative Literature and Art—Semiotics from Brown University (1996), and her MFA from Columbia University (2002). She’s received awards from NY Community Trust, NYFA, College Art Association, and the Astraea Foundation, and participated in numerous residencies including Skowhegan, Art Omi, and the Headlands Center. From 1998-2003, Chitra was a Board Member of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC). Ganesh has exhibited locally and internationally, including at The Queens Museum of Art, Bronx Museum, White Columns, Apex Art, Exit Art, Asia Society, Fondazione Sandretto in Turin, Nature Morte in New Delhi, Gwangju Contemporary Art Centre in South Korea, and ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany. Chitra is represented by Thomas Erben Gallery in New York, and Haas and Fischer Gallery in Zurich.

Feminist Artist Statement

Engaging with feminist thought allowed me to see how rigid constructions of female sexuality and gender-based power are not merely reflected, but constituted and obsessively reiterated in storytelling and visual culture. In the process I noticed that social hierarchies and codes are upheld just as frequently via the absence and repression of narratives perceived as threatening to our world order, be it between lovers or empires. And so the gaps in official history, the open fields where history and myth meet, became a central engagement in my work. These gaps and fissures are evident in seemingly benign tellings of traditional, mythological tales that are intended as cultural enrichment or entertainment for children. Such stories routinely celebrate sex and violence to tell an engrossing tale, only to ensure their repression at story’s end, insisting upon appropriate behavior and gender expression by inventing disastrous consequences that accompany any attempt to transgress social norms. At the core of my work across media is a commitment to excavating and reiterating such narratives of transgression that have been systematically excluded from the official canons of history, literaure, and art.

My installation, photography and sculptural work is inspired in particular by mythological narratives, present day imperialism and queer politics, old Bollywood images and songs, lyric poetry, and erased moments in South Asian history. Taking these stories and integrating them with my own mythic imagery and text, the hybrid world of drawing and sculpture articulates both historical conflict and psychic transformation, embedded in a feminist and queer sensibility. Much of my visual vocabulary across media engages the term ‘junglee’ (literally ‘of the jungle’, connoting wildness and impropriety), an old colonial Indian idiom (still) used to describe women perceived as defiant or transgressing convention. I’m deeply indebted to and inspired by feminist writing that dismantles traditional structures in favor of radical experiments with translation and form including that of Clarice Lispector, Anne Carson, and books like Mrs. Dalloway, and Beloved. In layering disparate materials and visual languages, I aim to create alternative models of sexuality and power, in a world where untold stories keep rising to the surface.