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NORTH AMERICAN SPECIAL

[[image left]]  
(from left) Jan Rindfleisch, director of Euphrat Museum of Art, Kapoor, Desai, Sitaraman, Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, Batra and Hashmi [[/image left]]
[[image right]] The Works Gallery (top) [[/image right]]

COLOURS OF DIVERSITY
An exhibition in San Jose brings together eight artists with nothing in common but their roots 
By NANDINI SHARMA 

In THE MIDDLE OF THE gallery stands a vividly-painted 1972 Volkswagen Beetle. On the walls hang abstract motifs as well as descriptive murals. Elsewhere in the gallery, ceramics embody the beast and beauty in nature. The eight artists on view though, seem to have little in common, except their roots. 

Shakti--Roots of Vision, at the Works Gallery in San Jose, is a show put together by a group of Bay Area-based artists of Indian origin. "The art and process of artmaking for each of the artists is different. The strength in the unity is the diversity of thought and expression, much like India herself." says Soumya Sitaraman, curator of the show.

Sitaraman's own work—the kitsch car named What We live By—is representative of the multitude of influences these artists have been open to. Her work. With its mix of 1960s and New Age motifs—such as the painting on the hood of Mother Earth rushing with outstretched arms and streaming hair to meet the road ahead—reveals a passion for Indian themes and vibrant colours. 

Sitaraman, 28, is the driving force behind Shakti. "Shakti came about as a result of my personal search for other artists of Indian origin. I am a part of the Asian American Women Artists' Association. In sharing my work with them and seeing how each of these people used their culture and racial issues in art, I wondered what other Indians were doing," she says. So she contacted other Indian American artists and they did three shows together. "We finally decided to form a group and call it Shakti as the work denotes inner strength, creative energy and power," says Sitaraman, who grew up in Madras. 

Romilla Batra's ceramics are very contemporary; El Nino, St Andreas Fault, and the Winter Storm series reveal a strange combination of beauty and destruction. These pieces remember the havoc that natural forces create in California—from earthquakes to violent storms. "The pieces i this show represent what has happened in the Bay Area in the past few years," says Batra. The colour in her works is created by intricately inlaid porcelain—"I stain the porcelain when it's moist and then use a clay gun to embed it in the piece." Batra, who spent her childhood in hill stations in India, came to the US in 1966 with her husband and daughter. She was in her early 40s when she was convinced enough to call herself a ceramist. Batra now lives in Berkeley. 

Unlike Batra, Meera Desai discovered the world of art
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