What can monsters illuminate concerning the expertise that many immigrants face in new nations? Indo-Caribbean mixed-media artist Suchitra Mattai explores this query in Herself as One other, her first solo exhibition at Hollis Taggart in Chelsea. Constructing on her current exhibition at Unit London, titled Monster (January 11 to February 12, 2022), Mattai incorporates discovered objects, textiles, portray, and drawing in artworks that probe the cultural perceptions of immigrants within the International North.
Born in Guyana and now based mostly in Denver, Mattai inhabits the liminal area between these two worlds. A toddler of fogeys who labored as indentured servants on sugar plantations in Guyana throughout British occupation, her artwork speaks vividly of each her Indo-Caribbean heritage and the familial and social issues of migration. She focuses acutely on girls and their home labor, using practices like weaving, stitching, and embroidery — lengthy refused consideration as advantageous artwork due to their perceived domesticity and femininity — to create colourful, multidimensional tapestries that evoke the aesthetics and historical past of her South Asian heritage. “An Alien Spirit With a Breathtaking View” (2022) consists of classic saris, ghungroo bells, and garland, leading to a visually arresting rainbow. Through the use of conventional South Asian garb in her artwork, Mattai honors the expertise, magnificence, and centuries-old artisanal strategies of her forebears.
Beneath the sheen of technical mastery lies a deeper, extra sober intent. Because the present’s title suggests, Herself as One other is a meditation on alienation, the dissociative feeling of being labeled as Different by the society you inhabit. Mattai drew inspiration from Asa Simon Mittman and Peter Dendle’s guide The Ashgate Analysis Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous, which argues that monsters aren’t simply the diversions of delusion and fiction however are representations of society’s darkest fears. Monsters will not be born however fairly created, and individuals who fail to evolve to Western norms are made into demons. Accordingly, monsters serve in her artwork as a metaphor for a way cultural, linguistic, and non secular variations in a brand new nation usually render immigrants alien to these round them.
In a key work, “The Theater of Pleasure” (2021), Mattai combines embroidery floss, beads, fake gems, materials, and a theater masks present in India right into a Frankensteinian collage to depict the bifurcated nature of immigrant id. On the precise facet of the canvas is a Bhima masks worn by Kathakali dance performers that resemble deities and heroes from Indian folklore. The determine’s pores and skin is sickly inexperienced. Its blood-red eyes stare on the observer with furrowed eyebrows and a sinister grin. Subsequent to the masks is a brown-skinned girl seen in profile, wearing a multicolored high and vibrant pink, fringed skirt. A mesh cloth covers the girl however not the masks, her humanity eclipsed by her perceived monstrousness. She just isn’t a lady, however an unique mythological pressure that concurrently repels and captures the curiosity of these round her. Her placelessness breeds a lifetime of its personal.
The sculpture “Becoming In” (2022) approaches this anxiousness extra abstractly. A blue lock-line hose, bent and contorted into the form of a collapsing curler coaster or a ravenous serpent, sits atop a spherical wooden desk. Golden glitter ribbons tied to the hose dangle limply, seemingly struggling to seek out their place. It’s an odd, gangly work that seems to need to be one thing it’s not, a testomony to the conundrum of immigrant self-actualization, to futile makes an attempt at assimilation. Because the identify suggests, becoming in turns into an unimaginable feat.
An intentional inconsistency of type is obvious all through the gallery — an amalgamation of surrealism, Summary Expressionism, collage, and fiber arts. By stylized depictions of cultural hybridity, Herself as Another is a searing indictment of the manufactured monstrosity of immigrant id deeply embedded within the Western creativeness.
Suchitra Mattai: Herself as One other continues at Hollis Taggart (521 West twenty sixth Road, Chelsea, Manhattan) via March 12.