The artist and curator talking about “Meghdoot” at the exhibit.

In the year 1997, a young artist, was exploring and studying different art forms and mediums as part of her doctorate (PhD). For the artist, there was no limit to art forms – paint, performance, visual art and words, she was exploring it all. The same year she immigrated to a new country. In the foreign land, every thing was new and needed to be built up again. You could hole yourself up in a room and wait till destiny changes its course. Or you could take a copy of the papers of your thesis in your pocket, step out of home, strike a conversation with absolute strangers and ask them if they could make a paper boat of one of those thesis papers. And then with those paper boats, you could create art installations

Paper boats that have the footprint of many, stories of many, conversations with many. The isolation and alienation of a foreign place made the artist fall in love with collaboration and that has remained her signature style even after almost two decades. 

I wrote about the Liquid Stories Art Exhibition a few days back. Of the many exhibits, there is one that has been curated and created by the artist in my story above. 

“ MeghDoot” by Pallavi Sharma has an assortment of clouds that have art inscribed on them and stories written with them. Stories that have been written and contributed by several people from all walks of life. Stories that are personal yet relatable. Imagine a wall covered with clouds and the clouds covered in art and stories. Stories of identity, displacement, personal faiths and beliefs, trials and triumph, experiences and memories. These stories are liquid cause they are still forming and evolving. 

MeghDoot literally translates to Cloud(Megh) Messenger(Doot). A cloud carrying a message or a story. A great Sanskrit poet, Kalidasa wrote a lyrical poem that was titled ‘MeghDoot’, the core narration of the poem describing how once a king in exile, sent a message to his wife through a cloud. 

A few weeks back, in my mail arrived two pieces of clouds. How much can you write in a six inch by six inch cloud shaped object, I pondered. Sometimes just a few words are enough to tell a story. The first one that came to mind was about a woman’s identity, my own identity. 

Who Am I ?

The mirror says, “ You are a woman, a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a co-worker.”

I look back at the mirror and say, “But where am I ? Who am I ?” 

I reached out to two others artists who have collaborated on creating the clouds and depicting their stories / messages. 

Pam Wong is a paraeducator at a local elementary school and her story touched my heart. She talks about an autistic student of her’s whom she describes as being a very intelligent, curious, sweet boy who has a funny sense of humor. Pam often wonders how he will deal with his autism as he grows up. She wanted to capture his story in her artwork and offer him (and all others facing obstacles in life) a message of hope.

Pam tells me about the critical challenges the boy and many like him face – bullied and mocked by others for being different, noise sensitivity and learning difficulties. She has depicted the noise sensitivity in symbols representing noise  and onomatopoeia in a “bubble-like” font, contrasted with the square “block” font of the boy’s response of “Shhh!” in an effort to block out the noise so he can better concentrate. She uses cryptograms to show the boys difficulties with words he does not understand. The viewers are welcome to decipher those cryptograms. 

I am left speechless by her dedication to her work and her depiction of her love for people she cares for. I do not tell Pam, but I silently salute her.

Another artist, Vibhuti Juneja, had an hour long workshop with Pallavi and was told to articulate the unwritten/unsaid  thought living within her. Sexual assault and why is it done ? – was her instant thought. Power, control, superiority,revenge, material hunger, one or all of it. The octopus with its evil eye can see 360 degrees and seeks opportunities all around, to catch a prey, to show power.

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I had one more cloud to fill with words and a story. The second story that I chose to write is close to my heart. It is the story of many immigrants across the globe.

Where is home ?

I flew a 1000 miles away from home, carrying nothing but a dream. I chased the dream, built a new life and a new home.I had everything I had ever wanted for.

Yet, alone at nights, I yearned for home. The one that I had left behind. The one where I belonged.

This is just a preview. There are so many other stories on that wall. Stories that will touch your heart. Stories that you will find yourself in. Stories that have been in your heart forever.

There are very few people who are making such an enormous effort to bring together the community through art. It is not easy in this digital world. Show your support and appreciation. Be a part of these stories. Come and tell yours. Head out to the exhibition this weekend and you may have a cloud to add to the wall. Pallavi is always hungry to collaborate.

Pictures By : Pallavi Sharma from her art exhibit Liquid Stories. 

Being Exhibited At  : Lindsay Dirkx Brown Gallery, 12501 Acosta Blvd, San Ramon, CA till October 27, 2016. 

Collaborating Artists: Pallavi Sharma with Vibhooti Juneja, Kyle Wong, Mira Bathwal, Piya Mukherjee Kalra, Pam Wong, Kavya Vipul, Indu Gupta, Tejal Sheth, Poonam Uppal, Namrata Misra, Kanchan Darftadar Fernandes, Nitya Garg, Tanvi Chichili, Meenakshi Arora, Akash Mankude, Joshua Vanan Uppal, Hayagreev Veeru, Anika Awasthi, Preeti Sharma, Sangita Shriwas, Sanika Shriwas, Pavani Prithviraj, Anupama Ramachandran, Jayanthi Srinivasan, Tanvi S. Thummala, Kavita Patel, Sreeya Yekollu, Nivedha Kumar

Pictures : Provided by and Copyright of Inner Eye Arts . 

Written by : Piya Mukherjee Kalra 

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