Asian culture has proven to be a strong influence on countless Western artists over the centuries. A large portion of that influence has been drawn from Chinese and Japanese cultures, but a recently hung exhibition seeks to shift the spotlight to Indian, Thai, and Sri Lankan subjects.
Southern Asia has an intensely rich artistic and cultural tradition that is seldom explored or highlighted in exhibitions. However, Schomburg Gallery in Santa Monica, California, is shifting that narrative with “American Artists and the Allure of the East,” which will explore how contemporary artists are expanding the artistic scope of “the East” to include the spiritual and cultural vocabulary of India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Curator Rency Punnoose suggests, “The participating artists are not just some American artists painting some eastern images. Artists like Scott Burdick, Susan Lyon, and Richard Weinstein travel a lot to India and other eastern countries and experience the life and culture on a very intimate level.”

Stephanie Deshpande, “Applying Mehndi,” oil on linen, 18 x 12 in. (c) Schomburg Gallery 2015

Among the aforementioned, notables include Raj Chaudhuri, Karen Yee, Leah Waichulis, Suchitra Bhosle, and Sivananda Nyayapathi. Thirty-one paintings will be featured in the exhibition, including Chaudhuri’s “Offerings of Milk and Ash.” At center we find a seated elderly figure. Imaged in brilliant large strokes, the man extends his arm, holding a pail of milk over a smoldering fire. Stephanie Deshpande’s “Applying Mehndi” is also captivating. A tightly cropped scene, the painting displays the delicate process of tattooing using mehndi, or henna paste. The paste is squeezed through a tube and used to create beautiful and intricate designs on the hands and feet.

Susan Lyon, “Selling Hay in Udaipur, India,” oil on canvas, 30 x 20 in. (c) Schomburg Gallery 2015

Susan Lyon’s “Selling Hay in Udaipur, India” is yet another highlight of the show. Created in a beautiful palette of pastel hues with brilliantly luminous areas, a female figure walks gracefully across the center of the composition. Broad, simple, and shadowed forms surround the subject as she wades through the hay.
“American Artists and the Allure of the East” opened on September 9 and will be on view through October 10.
To learn more, visit Schomburg Gallery.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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