Student Exhibition Year
"A 'muthukuda' is a decorated umbrella used in religious and cultural celebrations. This jumbo muthukuda is inspired by the struggles of my mother and her sisters to afford Western clothing when they immigrated as young women. Using their sarees to create this piece reimagines their relationship to clothing and Western beauty standards from a source of shame to a sign of beauty and protection."
Presented as part of the 2023 Annual Student Exhibit in the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College.
A Language I Understand
I’ve often felt languageless. It’s funny because I grew up in a household that spoke two—English and the south Indian language, Malayalam. And yet, when asked, ‘tell me about yourself or “what’s on your mind,” neither language seems to suffice. Returning to my family’s ancestral home in Kerala, India, after nearly five years, I finally found my “language”; it has no words at all. The language I feel ownership of is a sensory one—the soupy, gooey curries my grandmother makes, five yards of artisan-crafted sareefabric, and the colorful traditions of South India.
The exhibited body of work adopts this visual language to narrate the story of three generations of women in my family: my paternal grandmother, my mother, and myself. My alphabet is a collection of sarees from my late (maternal) grandmother, which I hesitantly “borrowed” from a suitcase full of her untouched belongings. I transform these garments through folding, ripping, and shredding techniques, reformatting the resulting fragments to create multi-dimensional works drawing on the iconic cuisine, fashion, and traditions of the coastal state of Kerala. These works become, therefore, “cut from the same cloth.” Their subject matter—a gluttonous dish called chatti (pot) chor (rice), the pursuit of a perfectly pleated saree, and an “onam pookalam”—reveal the unfulfilled desires of the three women. The work featured in this exhibition depicts an imagined set of circumstances—my grandmother feels her family is well-fed, my mom achieves perfect saree pleats, I create community around my mixed cultural upbringing. The culmination of my studio practice at Ursinus is a singular, simple truth—despite temporal and geographic distance, I’m not so different from the maternal figures in my life after all.
 A saree is a traditional garment worn South Asian women, created from a long, rectangular fabric draped across the body.
 A ‘floral carpet’ or mural typically created in a circular form to celebrate a local, multi-day harvest festival, Onam.
Copyright of the underlying work is held by the artist. The digital image presented here is for educational purposes only and is not for commercial use.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.
student art exhibit, 2023, saree fabric, poly tubing, PVC pipe, umbrella