Wednesday, November 12, 2014


As often happens to Westerners in India, I have been ill. The heat, dust, noise and chaos of Varanasi have taken their toll.

Kriti Artist Residency is an cool, clean and quiet oasis where artists are well cared for by Petra Manefeld and Navneet Raman, owners and directors. Their extended net of friends and acquaintances is truly impressive.

Petra took several of us on an early morning walk in the narrow streets of old Varanasi, where shop keepers were preparing for their day.

 After walking for sometime and ending up on the ghats, we decided to take a boat back to Assi Ghat, passing the main burning ghat, Manikarnika, where hundreds of devout Hindus are cremated each day, breaking the cycle of rebirth.

I have enrolled in an amazing Indian Miniature Painting Workshop with the master painter, Raja Ram Sharma, who as luck would have it, is scheduled for an exhibition of his contemporary miniature paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago next year. His demeanor is quiet and unassuming, and it is truly humbling to learn from this man who spent over 22 years of his life training and refining his painting. Student after student, including me, handed him their bumbled efforts and with a few, efficient, deft strokes, he transforms the painting into something clear and viable.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bangalore, Mysore

Bhagya and I wandered around the streets of Chik Pet, the old market in Bangalore, first to buy art supplies, then to explore the small sari weaving shops. In one tiny shop, lit by a single florescent light over the loom, a couple sat working in tandem on opposite sides of a single loom. They invited us in, gave us plastic chairs to sit on and served us tea and cookies. Bhagya translated from Kannada and as their hands flew nimbly at their work, we learned that their work was to prepare the silk structure for the weavers. The man told us that he quit school at age 12 to take up his trade and that he had been at it 45 years. None of their three grown children have taken up the trade, so the skill will die with them. We shopped at Bhaskar Art Center, a small, crowded shop also run by a husband wife team who know exactly where everything is. As a customer, you sit at the small counter and request to brushes, etc, before making a purchase. We left Bangalore at 4:30 am to drive to Mysore in time for Agnika's Classical Indian dance rehearsal for that night's performance. There were numerous people to thank and acknowledge, a long process that involves speeches and gift giving that interspersed the many guest performers and the crowds of children studying with master dancer Shridhar Jain. Agnika's performance was impressive; she's been studying and performing for at least six years.