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Women Artists of Color

Author: Phoebe Farris      Publications: Greenwood Press - London      Dated: NULL

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Born: 1937, Aligarh, India. Education: B.Sc., Aligarh University, India, 1958. Started making woodcuts in Bangkok, Thailand, 1958-1961. Studied etching with S.W. Hayter at Atelier 17, Paris, France, 1963-1967. Studied at St. Martins School of Art. London, 1966. Studied papermaking in Rajasthan, India. 1968. Studied silkscreen printmaking in Germany, 1971. Studied woodblock printmaking and papermaking in Japan, 1974. Career: New York Feminist Art Institute. New York. 1979-1989. Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, 1983-1984. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 1985-1986. Art Students League of New York. New York, 1987-1988. Summer Arts Institute, Womens Studio Workshop. Rosendale, New York, 1988. Split Rock Art Program (Summer). Duluth, Minnesota, 1988.  University of California at Santa Cruz. 1992-1998. Awards: Presidents Award for Graphics, India, 1969.  Japan Foundation Fellowship, 1974. The Printmaking Workshop Fellowship, New York, 1984-1985.  International Biennial of Prints. Grand Prize, Bhopal, India, 1989. Adolph and Esther Gothlieb Foundation Grant, 1990. New York Foundation Fellowship,1990.

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

1994       Homes I Made, Faculty Gallery. University of California at Santa Cruz. California

1993       Chawkandi Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan

1992       House with Four Walls, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, New York

1990       Roberta English Gallery, San Francisco, California

1986       Art Heritage, New Delhi, India

1985       Women Artist Series, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

1983       Satori Gallery, San Francisco, California

1981       Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, New York; Orion Editions, New York, New York; Gallery Chanakya, New Delhi, India

1977       Gallery Alana, Oslo, Norway

1976       India Ink Gallery, Los Angeles, California

1975       Malvina Miller Gallery, San Francisco, California

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

1998       Out of India: Contemporary Art of the South Asian Diaspora, Queens Museum of Art, New York, New York

1997       India and Pakistan Contemporary Prints, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom; Gift from India, Sahmat Lalit Kala Akedemi, New Delhi, India

1996       25 Years of Feminism/25 Years of Women s Art, Mason Gross School of Art Gallery, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Mini Print, Gallery Espace, New Delhi, India

1995       Arts and Letters, June Kelly Gallery, New York, New York; International Biennial of Prints, Bhopal, India

1994       Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art, the Asia Society, New York, New York; International Print Triennial and Intergrafica, Cracow, Poland

1992       From Bonnard to Baselitz: From Print Collection, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; Norwegian International Print Triennale, Fredrikstad, Norway

1990       International Biennial of Prints, Bhopal, India

1988       The Language of Form: The Form of Language, Rosa Esman Gallery, New York; Coast to Coast: Women of Color National Artist Book Project, travelling exhibition; Artists Choose Artists, A.I.R. Gallery, New York, New York; Art for Arts Sake, Kala Institute, Berkeley, California

1987       Heresies 10th Anniversary Benefit, PPOW Gallery, New York, New York

1986       The Heroic Female: Images of Power, Ceres Gallery, New York, New York; New Art New York, the Harlem School of the Arts, New York, New York

1985       Ripe Fruit, P.S.l, Long Island City, New York; Reflections: Women in Their Own Image, Ceres Gallery, New York, New York

SELECTED COLLECTIONS

Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; Gilkey Print Center Collection, Oregon Art Institute, Portland,  Oregon; Japan Foundation, Tokyo, Japan; Jordan National Gallery, Amman, Jordan; Museum of Fine Arts,  Bhopal, India; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi,  India; The Neurosciences Research Foundation, New York, New York; Schulmberger Ltd., New York, Paris;  South East Banking, Florida; U.S. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.: Victoria and Albert Museum,  London, England; World Bank, Washington, D.C.

 PUBLICATIONS

Boxum, Jenifer P. “Asia/America.” Artforum 33, no. 1 (September, 1994), p. 108.

Cohen, Ronny. “Paper Routes.” Art News 82, no. 3 (1983).

Farver, Jane. Out of India, Contemporary Art of the South Asian Diaspora. New York:

Queens Museum of Art, 1997. Exhbn cat.

Glowen, Ron. “Matters of Survival: Asia/America.” Artweek 25 (November 3, 1994), p. 14.

Green, Charles. “Zarina.” Artforum (April 1998), p. 122.

Hirch, Fay. “Zarina Hashmi.” On Paper 2, no. 2 (November-December 1997), p. 41.

Hussain, Marjorie. “Etched in Mind.” The Herald (Karachi Pakistan), 1990.

Hussain, Marjorie. “House of Four Walls.” Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan), 1992.

Lal, Laxshmi. “A Metaphor in Full Bloom.” Times of India (Bombay), 1986.

Liebmann, Lisa. “Zarinas Balm: Objects of Exchange.” Artforum 26 (January 1988), pp. 74-76.

Lippard, Lucy. Review. Village Voice, 1981.

Machida, Margo. Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art. New York: The Asia Society Galleries/the New Press, 1994.

Nadelman, Cynthia. Review. ArtNEWS 81, no. 7 (1982), p. 77.

Naqvi, Akbar. “The House That Zarina Built.” The Herald (Karachi, Pakistan), 1993.

Review. New Yorker, May 11, 1992.

Review. Printmakers Newsletter 3 (1984).

Safrani, Shehbaz H. “Zarina at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.” Asian Art News 2, no. 2 (March-April 1992).

Saint-Gilles, Amaury. Interview. Mainichi Daily News (Tokyo), 1983.

Shere, Charles. Review. The Oakland Tribune, 1987.

BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY 

Strong white paper punctured with pinpricked designs, paper sculptures  saturated with deep red earth tones, bronze and metal objects that seem  idiosyncratic yet recognizable. Monochrome prints on textured handmade paper, compositions whose abstract lines evoke formal harmony yet suggest subtle meaning, ambiguous texts that hint of private yet also known worlds. There is a compelling essence about Zarinas work that invites the viewer to investigate it further. In other words, her art stands on its own. It needs no explanations. The aesthetic vocabulary that she uses is readily accessible. The metaphors  reflect constancy and change, the reality of twentieth-century mobility at the cost of stability. We are on familiar territory. Her visual messages resonate with our own subconscious longings.

The point that I am making about Zarinas work is that at one level, at the most accessible level, it defies a specific cultural identity. This raises the  question of relevance, because the most important aspect of Zarinas work is that it is pure art. She works with different materials in order to express her own creative forces. She does not profess to create an overtly political agenda through her art, yet in subtle and sometimes humorous ways she strikes a chord that alerts our subconscious to the unrelenting pressures that haunt our existence. She plays upon themes of repetition and monotony, of rootlessness and belonging, and of identity and independence. These are themes that are at the heart of every womans being. The seeming simplicity of objects and the abstraction of her compositions mask the complexities and depth of Zarinas art.

Zarina was bom in 1937 in Aligarh, north India. She grew up in a traditional home-a house with four walls-that encompassed the rooms of her extended family and a garden. After graduating from Aligarh University in 1958 she was married to a young diplomat. Thus began her life of wandering as she followed her husband to Southeast Asia, France, Germany, and the United States. While living in Bangkok for three years from 1958 to 1961, she started making  woodblock prints, after which she studied for four years, from 1963 to 1967, with Stanley W. Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris; this included work in 1966 at St. Martins School of Art in London. In 1971, while in Germany, she studied silkscreen printing, and in 1974, when she was in Japan, she studied woodblock printing and papermaking. Making art for Zarina was a way for her to achieve some balance in her life. By the time she returned from Paris in 1968, she recognized that she could no longer tolerate char divari, the home and husband syndrome expected of South Asian women. She came to the United States from Japan in 1974 and lived in New York. She became involved with Heresies, the publication for feminist writings. The first showing of her work in the United States was at the Manha Jackson Gallery in New York, followed by one at the Malvina Miller Gallery in San Francisco in 1975. In 1981 Zarina had an oneperson show of paper sculptures at Orion Editions in New York. In 1992 a solo exhibition of her prints and sculptures, House with Four Walls, was held at The Bronx Museum of Art in New York. Since coming to the United States, Zarina has been actively teaching art, first for ten years (1979-1989) at the New York Feminist Art Institute, and has held visiting positions at Bennington College, Cornell University, the Art Students League of New York, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her home and studio are in New York.

Zarina is also a sculptor. She makes objects from paper pulp, wax, and bronze, and other metals, all of which have an elemental quality to them that appear to be serpentine spirals, segmented fruits, conical seeds, and lapelled buds. In many instances, she has given them evocative terms. Buds become amulets, seeds become tents, and a segmented fruit is called Shrine. There is a potential force within each form: Guardian powers, fertility, shelter, and the means to communicate with the spiritual world are suggested. Amulets, small containers made of metal or cloth that hold sacred texts or relics invested with certain spiritual powers are worm by many in South Asia as protective devices. The segmented Shrine recalls an amalaka, a round, segmented architectural element. Inspired by a fruit of the same name that adorns the tops of Hindu temple towers. A pear-shaped contour suggests the lines of a Mughal dome. Some of these sculptures are made of caste paper pulp; others such as Shrine have been made in both wax and bronze. Spiral is four feet in diameter. Caste from gritty paper pulp with line striations across the coils, it is tensely wound like a sleeping naga, serpent. In human scale. it is the counterpoint to Robert Smithsons Jetry.

Zarina uses walls like canvases for her most innovative sculptures. The wall thus becomes the foundation for her ideas yet retains its own integrity as a wall, the fundamental structure and enclosure of a house. In the recent exhibition Out of India: Contemporary Art if the South Asian Diaspora (1997), held at Queens Museum of Art in New York. Zarina covered a wall with small metal Cut-outs of houses on wheels. The houses were square in shape with a triangular roof sitting atop two large wheels. They descended the wall like an untidy caravan, or a wave of migrant nomads that recalled the constant movements of people throughout time: rootless, shifting, searching for fertile pastures and hospitable environments. The house on wheels has come to symbolize Zarinas own peripatetic wanderings and her musings on the concepts of home and house.  Constantly moving since the age of 21, she has looked back wistfully to her childhood years where house and home were one and the same, a place of nurture and security: The most enigmatic house is cast from bronze and stands 11 inches tall. It is also placed on wheels. However, there is one wheel aligned under each of the walls, abutting up against each other. It seems like a joke. A mechanical folly, this house can go nowhere. The wheels may spin, but the house will not move. Yet it is the imagined energy of the spinning wheels that makes everything within the house/home work. The visual conundrum continues with Moving House II (1993), where multiple boxlike houses cast in bronze parade across the wall. Each house, however, is mounted on a wheel whose spokes are off axis, and an extension of the wheel acts like a brake. The houses are becoming more and more vulnerable, until in House That Flew Away (1996), all that remains are two empty wheels joined at their edges. No longer are the wheels supporting a house/home, no longer containing power within them, no longer constantly moving. Perhaps this work is a metaphor for Zarinas and our perpetual quest.

MARY-ANN MILFORD-LUTZKER teaches Asian Art History at Mills College, where she holds the Carver Chair in Asian Studies. She has curate several exhibitions including The Image of Women in Indian Art in 1985 and has published widely. Dr. Milford-Lutzker is currently on the Board of Directors and Treasurer for the American Council for Southern Asian Art (ACSAA) and serves on the advisory Committee for Rhodes Scholarships. She has a long association with the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, where she is on the Advisory Committee for the Society for Asian Art.