Picturing Parallax show explores immigration impact

Photo by Gil Riego Jr.

Zoology major Courtney Arndt, 21, examines the work at the Picturing Parallax exhibit in the SF State Fine Arts Gallery to prepare for her Thought and Image class. Photo by Gil Riego Jr.

As students get into the swing of the semester, six artists with roots in various locations around South Asia will be presenting art on immigration and their cultural roots through various art forms.

Photographs and videos chronicling issues such as the migration, memory and assimilation of the South-Asian American community are now being displayed at SF State’s Fine Arts Gallery.

“We were interested in artists who were also interested in the themes and issues of diaspora,” said Santhi Kavuri-Bauer, an associate art history professor who is curating the exhibit. “We looked for artistic excellence and really the best artists, the photography and video that spoke to us and echoed the kind of thesis we were presenting about diaspora.”

The name of the exhibit “Picturing Parallax: Photography and Video from the South Asian Diaspora”  is a play on words. Parallax means to look at things from multiple perspectives, which speaks to both the art itself and the culture of the people who created it.

The shows will display both stories of triumph and those of everyday agony of trying to fit in and make a living explained Kavuri-Bauer.

“It’s important for us to start representing ourselves more truthfully,” Kavuri-Bauter said. “For a very long time the story that has been told about this community has been one of achievement and success, it’s a very one dimensional kind of story, and that doesn’t really help a community.”

Gautam Kansara, an artist and educator based in Brooklyn, New York, will display two pieces, which he described as “audio visual encyclopedias.”

His piece “Bedtime Stories” is a recorded phone conversation with his mother about the Parsi people who left Iran and settled in India due to religious persecution paired with images he found on Google to create a slideshow.

“For me it’s a juxtaposition of these two strategies, the old oral tradition strategy verses a more modern learning strategy that I think people utilize today a lot, getting their information from Google,” said Kansara.

Pradeep Dalal, another New York-based artist creates collages of photographs taken of his mother and grandmother, photos of things present in their home and images from their immigration from Bombay to the United States.

Dalal feels as though his art, called “Go West,” will not only show his experience coming to the United States, but also give people something they can identify with.

Although memories of living in Bombay are fragmented and brief, most of his art examines the back and forth between living in India and living in the United States.

Dalal explained that it’s common for students from other immigrant families to react with surprise when he tells them that he is an artist.

“Students, especially those who are first or second generation are curious about how I became an artist,” Dalal said. “Art is a lot lower than something like business.”

Ranu Mukherjee, an art teacher at the Art Institute in San Francisco, created an art installation of photographs of a landscape with gold in it, inspired by the story of the immigration the oldest woman in her family from Pakistan to Calcutta, while she carried the family’s gold.

“The art I make focuses on things that come from the earth and turn into currency,” Mukherjee said.

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