Art, // June 16, 2015
Siona Benjamin — ARTIST
An interview with artist Siona Benjamin —
1. Who are you and what do you do?
I am Siona Benjamin, a painter originally from Bombay, now living in the US. My work reflects my background of being brought up Jewish in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim of India. In my paintings I combine the imagery of my past with the role I play in America today, making a mosaic inspired by both Indian miniature paintings and Sephardic icons. My first MFA is in painting, and a second MFA in Theater set design. I have exhibited in the US, Europe and Asia.
2. Why art?
Because there is no other alternative. I live, breathe and survive because of it.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an artist?
It seems I must have started painting in the womb. I cannot live without color.
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and how do you work and approach your subject?
In my paintings, I raise questions about what and where is “home”, while evoking issues such as identity, immigration, motherhood, and the role of art in social change. I am a Bene Israel Jew who attended Catholic and Zoroastrian schools while growing up in India. My family has gradually dispersed mostly to Israel and America, but my parents remained in India. I am now also an American, living and working in New Jersey. With such a background, the desire to “find home”, spiritually and literally, has always preoccupied me. The feeling I have of never being able to set deep roots no matter where I am is unnerving, but on the other hand, there is something seductive about the spiritual borderland in which I seem to find myself. My work is informed by Indian miniature paintings, Byzantine icons and Jewish religious art from my childhood. This work emphasizes women’s issues and raises questions about identity. The forms, though, may appear unconventional and exotic to some. In this multicultural society, I would like the viewers transcend this apparent exoticness and absorb the core message — tolerance of diversity.
6. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
My work has been featured in: The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Financial Times, The Jewish Week in NYC and NJ, The Boston Globe, Art in America, Art New England, Art and Antiques, ArtNews, Moment magazine and several news papers, magazines, journals and books.
Recently, I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2010-11 for art project titled: Faces: Weaving Indian Jewish Narratives. Research for this project has been conducted in India. The first exhibit was in October 2013 at the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, India. This exhibit was covered by The Times of India, The Mumbai Mirror, Midday newspaper and Caravan magazine.
7. What do you like about your work?
Hmm, color……its delicious
8. What advice would you give to other artists?
9. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Facebook Artist Page: https://www.facebook.com/ArtistSionaBenjamin?fref=ts
Artist website: http://www.artsiona.com
New York Gallery website: http://www.flomenhaftgallery.com
Siona Benjamin recent exhibit catalog: http://digital.turn-page.com/i/108414-exhibition-catalog
Siona Benjamin Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siona_Benjamin
Recent catalog on my Fulbright project: http://www.blurb.com/books/5123062-weaving-indian-jewish-faces
Mumbai Museum catalog link: http://issuu.com/motif.spaces/docs/final_file
Esther megillah commission: http://www.artsiona.com/commissions2.html
Dance collaboration video example: http://vimeo.com/23892974
Animated video”Luminosity” https://vimeo.com/121524857
The Forward’s blog, The Arty Semite: http://blogs.forward.com/the-arty-semite/194239/painting-pictures-of-indias-jews/?
Link to Paintings and statements: http://imgur.com/a/hAriO