One face of India

Published on 13 October 2023 at 23:49

Medium: Watercolor on paper

Date: 2019


Please take a moment to sit comfortably. I'd like to share the backstory behind this week's featured artwork: 'One Face of India'.

 My interest in India is part of my life. My new stepdad spent army years in Agra during WWII, at which time the Taj was repaired. He brought me a piece of the Taj. I was six years old. I still have that stone. He also brought jewelry and cloth to my mom. I could see she mostly was not interested in foreign things. His army cloth patches were made in India, embroidered with silver thread and boldly colored silk. After the war, he gave these to me. I had my mom sew them on the sleeves of my jackets. I still have them, now in tatters. My secret love was always on the lookout for "foreign things." India had plenty then and now.

To bide my time on the long Greyhound bus ride from San Francisco to New York in 1967, I bought a book of color photos of the architecture of India.

In Omaha, I met a girl also going to New York City who became my lifelong friend. I relished showing her my book. Later she sighed, "I guess I cannot get away. My father is an architect in Portugal. The British Museum just photographed our beach house. My fiancé is from India. I just met you and you are telling me about the wonders of India. My life is fated." I then became a lifelong friend of her fiancé, who happened to be an engineer who cooked very good Indian food. Later I liked very much the company of his brother and sister. One of the great regrets of my life was not being able to attend the wedding of his very beautiful sister in her gold sari. India has stirred the senses in my imagination.

There is so much that is fabulous in India. The richness is mind-boggling. Yet there can be a veil over all this beauty, because the viewer can be overwhelmed by the amount of it. In this picture, you might see the steel-framed glasses of Mahatma Gandhi or perhaps the spaciousness of the great Islamic gathering place in Delhi. Frankly, this place in Delhi was the most beautiful architecture I had ever seen until I beheld the Taj Mahal the next day. Here in this picture, I tried to express my love for the quietly perfect proportions and the joy of the Islamic architecture that I have gloried in seeing. I have tried to express the great color that appears everywhere in Indian saris.

I loved my trip to North and South India. For instance, there was the rather astonishing wide carpet of red zinnia flowers leading to the summer house of the Tipu Sultan, Tiger of Mysore (1751 - 1799). He said of his country house, "If there is paradise on earth, it is here." He certainly was pretty much right. It was so unusual for me to see so many zinnias of the same color at the peak of their bloom. There were so many things everywhere, but I missed them. It seemed they were just behind a veil. I think I have never done a picture with better color and a kind of classical shape. I say, "I have done a clear picture of the remembered beauty; it must be in this picture."

This art piece holds my strong impression of India. I found perfect proportion in the architecture of the Taj Mahal. I found brilliant colors in the paintings from Rajasthan. I saw mysterious darkness in the paintings of the Kangra school. Everywhere there was the vivid sparkle of clothing.

In the artwork, the face exudes a harmonious balance, with colors layered with the precision and grace of a finely woven tapestry. The ears, slightly unconventional in their depiction, hint at the profound mysteries and sacred nuances of India. An observant eye might notice the subtle asymmetry in the eyes — a deliberate choice, inviting a deeper exploration beyond the initial impression. The forehead's bindi seamlessly transitions, connecting to the golden hue of the nose, leading gracefully to the delicate pink of the lips. This portrayal is not just of a face, but of a goddess. Her alabaster arms, elegantly represented, become the eyebrows, framing the visage and drawing attention to the central, hidden essence of the artwork — a reflection of India's profound beauty and depth.

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