By Masum Momaya, Indian American Heritage Project Curator
In my quest for visual art to incorporate in Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, I traveled to the Queens Museum of Art in New York on Saturday. There, Curator Jaishri Abichandani gave me a tour of Her Stories, a group exhibition celebrating 15 years of work by the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and video installations.
After the tour, I spoke on a panel featuring artists whose work appears in Her Stories, highlighting themes that cut across their creations and also emerge in Beyond Bollywood. One includes taking a closer look at the objects, such as teacups, that we take for granted as part of our everyday lives but house complex stories of migration, identity and belonging. Another involves invoking mythical and iconic South Asian female figures to explore and challenge gender stereotypes.
Seeing the visual art in person and conversing with the artists allowed me new insight into their work – and my own. I hope to feature a number of items I saw there in Beyond Bollywood, including a series of portrait photographs titled UnSuitable Girls. The women featured in the portraits participated in defining and staging their ‘unsuitability.’ Artist Swati Khurana made customized trophies for them, and Anjali Bhargava photographed the portraits. I’m excited for some elements from Her Stories to become part of the larger Indian American story that we tell here at the Smithsonian beginning in 2013.