Fascinating discussion with Soody Sharifi on Tuesday evening, moderated by Curator of Contemporary Art, David Rubin. Sharifi is an Iranian-born, Houston-based artist, and her work is part of the exhibition The Jameel Prize: Art Inspired by Islamic Tradition, at the museum through August 11. Her magnificent digitally composed photographs were among the nearly 200 submissions competing for the coveted £25,000 prize awarded by an international panel of independent jurists and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibition has been on tour internationally since 2011, and SAMA is the last of only 3 stops made in the US. This discussion covered not only the work featured in the exhibit, but her journey and exploration as an artist over the past 30 or more years.
A group of individuals gathers for an informal “Black Box” lunch at Blue Star. What next?
First up: Amita Bhatt. Initially, the paper rustling and chip crunching was a little distracting – not for long.
As Amita tentatively launched into her story you were carried away, as if by Scheherezade. We were surrounded by her 9′ x 12′ drawings – charcoal on rough canvas. Humble materials and unforgiving media relating a complex and quizzical view of the world. She described the scene in Mumbai of the early 90’s. She found herself in the middle of the worst violence the country had seen since the partition of India, involved with the mafia and one of the most deadly men in the country. To say the least, it was a difficult time and she was nearly killed twice. In an attempt to escape this violence she moved to the US in 1994. And this is where the search for meaning began to unfold.
Several times a year, Blue Star hosts the Black Box Lunch Series, an opportunity to meet exhibiting artists and discuss their work. I attended my first featuring Amita Bhatt and Sharon Kopriva, two of the four artists from “Texas Tough,” running through August 24th. What a great concept, once you get past the crunching of chips. To be honest, those in attendance were so quickly engrossed by the life story that Amita was relating, actually trying to eat became an afterthought.
We started in the back gallery with Amita’s work surrounding, engulfing us. Tables were set up in a large square configuration with a few more rows of chairs to round out seating for the group. Elizabeth Lyons, programming and marketing wiz at BSC, graciously welcomed all. A very different vibe from the typical auditorium and podium set up. It lent a certain intimacy once the ice was broken and we got started.
When Amita’s presentation ended, we followed Sharon to the main gallery, into the veritable maw of her work spanning 30 years. As we trailed her through the gallery, she led us through her very imposing body of sculptures and paintings with a grace and self-effacing humor that was completely disarming. The hour allotted for the conversation flew by in the blink of an eye.
I’ll not go into further detail here, and save the individual artist impressions for additional entries. I would like to encourage immersing oneself in conversations such as these whenever possible. We attended the opening of the exhibition which was a wonderful evening, but the individual point of view that can be gained from listening to an artist’s story is of immeasurable value – a price beyond rubies!
Click here to view photos from the opening reception.
The next Black Box Lunch is scheduled for July 24 with the remaining “Texas Tough” gals, Jill Bedgood and Sherry Owens. For more information visit bluestarart.org