Ashram 25, 2021

An artist who started a piece trying to represent as many Asian countries as possible ended up being about just one, mine. I embraced my cultural ways of showcasing a new era of life and congratulated myself on graduating in the most traditional way possible. Using rice paste, red ocher mud, sugarcane, red thread, and my earlier art pieces, I built my final piece, every material symbolizing something. I introspected and made twenty-five figures of the Goddess of Prosperity - Laxmiji, reliving a beloved childhood memory with my grandparents where they taught me the Dharma (duty) concept of Hinduism that our ancestors followed. Hindus worship Laxmiji during the Harvest or for new beginnings, with Ashram 25, 2021, I harvest myself from a student into a professional artist, my new beginning.

 

I made the figure of the Goddess Laxmiji out of sugarcane, Kalash (Metal Pots), and Mauli (sacred religious thread) to touch upon my Hindu roots, but draped her in non-traditional clothing. To understand which and what category of attire is essential to drape Laxmiji in I then made it my own. Laxmiji is usually draped in garments as cherished and elegant one could obtain (or afford); for me, my most treasured possessions are my artworks, and so I draped my twenty-five Laxmiji's in cut-up folded paintings or digital works reprinted on silk to make her saris/sarees. Since Ashram 25, 2021, was celebrating my graduation along with finishing my first Ashram, I felt like there had to be a dance celebration.

 

Similar to Taken By France, aka Color Me Red, 2018, I knew I had to perform and paint with my feet again. So I went over the entire traditional ritual of the prayer to Laxmiji again and remembered Aipan Art. Aipan is ritualistic folk art native to the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand (where my maternal grandparents originated from). It is drawn or painted to commemorate auspicious occasions, festivals, purify households before praying, and thank nature for its natural resources. It is made from red ocher mud and rice paste, which became my canvas color and paint under my feet for my dance performance. The footprints on the canvas from this dance performance then symbolized Laxmiji's dance of celebration.

With this performance, I was done with my Ashram. My mother asked me to do a traditional puja/pooja (prayer) of Laxmiji so she could bless me in this new chapter of my life - to which I humbly accepted. However, I recorded this ritual and presented it with Ashram 25, 2021, as a performance to show my audience how the sculptures of Laxmiji were created from sugarcane, Kalash, and Mauli. These three items, too, are symbols of pleasure, holding the elixir of life and blessings from a deity, respectively. 

 

Upon finishing Ashram 25, 2021, I had immense satisfaction working with symbols and signifiers and playing with my audiences' connotations and perceptions!