An Interview with Manvee Vaid

Manvee - Dancers

Manvee Vaid is a Chicagoland artist and the curator of the newest exhibit in our ongoing Local Art @ EPL series.  Comprised of over three dozen stunning samples of contemporary Indian folk art, her exhibit features works from the Madhubani, Gond, Warli, and Bengal regions of India done in acrylics, ink, vegetable colors, red mud, charcoal, and gouache.  You can catch her show on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library throughout December, and you can preview additional works by visiting her online gallery Deccan Footprints.  What’s more, you can meet Ms. Vaid in person on Saturday, December 14th at 4 p.m. when she visits our Community Meeting Room to discuss the creative processes behind various exhibited pieces.  In anticipation of her visit, we recently spoke with Ms. Vaid via email about her artistic origins and inspirations, the distinct regional styles of Indian folk art, and her upcoming collaboration with Now Art India.

Evanston Public Library:  Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist?  How did you get started in art?  Was there something specific in your life that sparked a need to create?  What drove you to create in the beginning?  What drives you now?

Manvee Vaid:  I have a BFA from Sir JJ School of Arts in Mumbai, India.  As an art student I was exposed to different mediums which gave me an opportunity to experiment.  Since moving to the United States I have done commissioned artworks as well as faux finishing. My own works are a collage of my visual experiences growing up in India and subsequently Chicago.  I try to unite spiritual elements of the East with the aesthetics of the West by playfully mixing the colors of Indian landscapes with the sensibility of western art.

EPL:  How did you first become interested in the folk and tribal arts of India?  What inspired you to create your Deccan Footprints gallery and begin raising awareness about South Asian visual arts in Evanston and Chicagoland?

MV:  Deccan Footprints is an online gallery that I launched in 2012 to showcase Indian art.  Its aim is to inform audiences about the different types of artwork from the subcontinent in an accessible manner.

Manvee - Big TigerAs an artist of the Indian diaspora, color is important to me.  Bright colors in different hues tie together the Indian culture as well as the traditions and philosophies which touched me as I grew in India.  Folk art is an art form underappreciated today, but I am drawn to the powerful but simple communication that folk artists from a non-academic background have achieved.  I’m moved by the ritualistic nature of folk art, and when I started painting, I began to better appreciate the vast visual references that I had taken for granted.

In 2008 I began collecting works that exhibited these characteristics, and it encouraged colleagues and other artists to preserve their culture.  I have amassed my own personal Indian art collection consisting of folk art and other emerging Indian artists.  Fortunately, I have been able to exhibit at several venues including the University of Chicago and Benedictine University.  For me, collecting has been a personal journey to understand the different styles and purposes of Indian art as well as my own heritage.

EPL:  Can you tell us about the various styles of folk art included in the exhibit?  Where in India do they originate?  How are the styles similar, and how do they differ?

MV:  This exhibition features compelling artwork from Madhubani in northern India, Gond in central India, Warli in the West, and Bengal in the East.  Although different in style and subject matter, the works are united by glimpses into Indian history, religious beliefs, and the social setup of the communities they reference.

In the colorful and elaborate Madhubani paintings from the northern state of Bihar, we find stories of mythology and traces of the influence of caste division in how the narratives are depicted.  The Gond paintings are alive with images drawn from the ancestral songs passed down by the Pardhans, or bards of the Gond community.  In the Warli ritual paintings, storyboard-like narratives show gods and goddesses and an understanding of the delicate balance of the universe in single color schemes.  Finally, in Bengal’s Patachitra Scrolls, the artists are inspired by the legacy of the sacred text as well as by socio-political subjects.

EPL:  What are your future artistic plans both personally and as an ambassador of contemporary Indian folk art?

MV:  Deccan Footprints and Now Art India are collaborating for a show at the Bridgeport Art Center beginning in January 2014.  Our common goal is to present Indian works on paper to the Chicago community at large, and together we hope to represent the past, the present, and the potential future of Indian art.  The exhibition will open with a reception from 7-10 pm on January 17th and run until February 28th.

Interview by Russell J.

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