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Arts at The Mittal Institute

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Artistic Expression, from South Asia to Cambridge: Welcoming Our New Visiting Artist Fellows

The Mittal Institute welcomed two new Visiting Artist Fellows, Cop Shiva and Garima Gupta, to campus for the start of their eight-week research fellowship at Harvard. The program allows mid-career visual artists from around South Asia to spend eight weeks on the Harvard campus. The VAF differs from a typical artist residency program in that it is research-centered, providing artists with the vast resources of Harvard’s intellectual community to enhance their artistic practice. Cop and Garima share more about their artistic motivations below. And save the date to join them at the Mittal Institute's Visiting Artist Fellows Art Exhibition on Tuesday, October 10, where they will share more of their work with our community.

Tree and Serpent: The Origins of Buddhist Art

The "Tree & Serpent: Early Buddhist Art in India, 200 BCE–400 CE" exhibit tells the story of early Buddhist art through 125 objects dating from 200 BCE to 400 CE. Conceptualized by John Guy, Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia in The Met’s Department of Asian Art, the exhibit was a complex logistical exercise, with major loans—of which many are loaned for the first time—from India, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. We spoke with John Guy about the exhibit, and what it took to bring it to the public. 

Mapping Color in History to Transform the Study of South Asian Art

Deep in a bank vault of Mumbai’s Asiatic Society lies a revered treasure that is much studied in textbooks but rarely seen. The early 16th-century painted manuscript (dated 1516 CE), one of the oldest of its kind in the world, requires a committee’s approval to see the light of day – a committee that had remained elusive to Prof. Jinah Kim, an expert in South Asian art, for years. But last September, her proposal to study the painted manuscript finally got the go-ahead, and capturing the color from the rare piece of work may just change the study of South Asian art – and maybe all of Asian art – forever.

Renowned Artist Nilima Sheikh on the Joys of Creativity

The Mittal Institute’s inaugural Distinguished Artist Fellow, Nilima Sheikh, will soon join us in residence on the Harvard campus from her home of Baroda, India. A renowned painter, Nilima has been a career artist for more than 50 years. We spoke with her about what led her to apply for a DAF, and her hopes for her experience.

Understanding the World Through Art: Explore Vaishnavi Patil’s Research

Vaishnavi Patil, one of the Mittal Institute’s new Graduate Student Associates, is a doctoral candidate in Harvard’s History of Art and Architecture department working on South and Southeast Asia. Vaishnavi received her B.A. in Ancient Indian History and Culture from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and an MA in History of Art and Archaeology from SOAS, London. She was a Yenching scholar at Peking University, China, receiving an MA in China Studies. In addition to her studies, Vaishnavi has participated in numerous internships, including curatorial training at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Harvard Art Museums. Vaishnavi is interested in studying female deities, especially mother goddesses, and how production, patronage, and development of religions play a role in the evolution of the mother goddess in South Asia. She is also interested in the text-to-image relationships in South Asian art, particularly the literal and the symbolic in the illustration of a text. Other areas of interest include popular practices, marginalized deities, depiction of evil, and gender issues. Her current research aims to analyze the origins and development of the cult of the mother goddess in South and Southeast Asia, particularly her representations and the popular practices centered on her.

New Visiting Artist Fellows Showcase Their Work Ahead of the October 24 Exhibit Launch

This past week, the Mittal Institute welcomed two new VAF Artists, Aamina Nizar and Sharbendu De, to Cambridge for the start of their eight-week research fellowship at Harvard. The VAF program connects artists from South Asia with Harvard’s intellectual resources, and allows a platform for mid-career artists to conduct independent research that explores critical issues in South Asia through the lens of art and design. Aamina and Sharbendu share their early impressions of their fellowship in the following Q&A. And meet them both in-person as they share their work at their Visiting Artist Fellows Art Exhibition, "Capturing the Change, Imagining the Future" on October 24.