Friday, September 23, 2011

A Summer Profile of Our Featured Artist, Shanthi Chandrasekar!

Even before her "Red Dots" appeared on our walls this month, Shanthi Chandrasekar was creating buzz in the DC area art community. Check out this interview featuring Shanthi and her 15-year-old daughter, Aishwariya, in the June 15th issue of Potomac Patch! 


Local Mother, Daughter Keep Traditional Indian Folk Art Alive
A mother and daughter team of artists received a master-apprentice grant from the Maryland Arts and Humanities Council to ensure the continuity of Kolams, the traditional Indian art of decorative threshold designs. 











Shanthi Chandrasekar learned to draw Kolams, decorative designs of lines and patterns, from her mother and grandmother as a young child in her native India.
Little did she know that her work with Kolamswould win her a local art award. Shanthi and her 15-year-old daughter, Aishwariya, recently received a Master-Apprentice Grant from theMaryland Arts and Humanities Council. The grant allows the Chandrasekars and other Maryland traditional artists to share their craft through public performances at the Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival on June 18.
“Kolams are drawings that are created on the floor of the thresholds of houses in Tamil Nadu, India,” Shanthi said. “They are forms of artistic self expression for women that represent the hardships that they have to go through, and how they have to weave their way around them.”
Art in its many forms was important to Shanthi’s family as she was growing up in India. She said she was deeply influenced by her parents’ appreciation of traditional arts, but also said she was influenced by the drawings and plans her father brought home from his work as a civil engineer.
Shanthi’s skills and passion for drawing were evident in school.
“I had art classes at school until about 8th grade," she said. "I participated in school art competitions and won a number of awards.”
She is passing her love for traditional Indian arts along to her own children. Her son is a budding musican and has painted and sculpted alongside her. Aishwariya’s work with Kolams is impressive, Shanthi said.
“My daughter, Aishwariya, who is a 10th grader, has been learning to draw the Kolams since she could hold a pencil,” she said. “This award has helped us set aside time to pursue this traditional art form more seriously.”
Shanthi said her daughter’s Kolams started with very simple patterns, but she can now make complex drawings.
“[Aishwariya] has even come up with her own line drawings inspired by Kolams,” Shanthi said. “She helps me with Kolam workshops and creates Kolam-inspired gifts.”
Shanthi teaches local artists how to make the different types of Kolams and the rules that are followed to make them, as well as the philosophy behind them. Shanthi uses any tool she can find to make the designs — the simpler the tool the better, she said. She uses rock powder from India, but since she doesn't have much of it she sometimes works in colored sand.
On June 18, Shanthi will demonstrate the art of creating Kolams at the Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival at Creative Alliance in Baltimore. The event lasts from 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. Her work can also be seen at the Black Rock Center in Germantown in July.
She has two solo shows coming up: one in Chennai, India in August and another (Three Red Dots) at The Art League in Alexandria, Virginia in September.

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