Stories in the Indian Diaspora are as Rich and Diverse as the History of Indian Art
- I want to show the world how the Indian diaspora incorporates its culture of origin with its life outside.
Being an artist who also happens to be Indian American is a great conversation opener. “How do you do it?” “Do you do this full-time?” “Were your parents supportive?” are among the questions I get asked often. Art isn’t always an easy road. And since it is a road less traveled among Indian Americans (this doesn’t take away from the fabulous Indian American artists I have met, but we are a rare breed), it can make finding your way both exciting and scary.
Art is deeply entrenched in Indian culture. The subcontinent is historically rich in many kinds of art and that is what drives me. I want to tell the stories of us. I grew up in the Netherlands and ended up in the United States for university. The stories in the Indian diaspora are as rich and diverse as the history of Indian art. And that is why I want to tell the world our stories. I want to show the world how the Indian diaspora incorporates its culture of origin with its life outside. How our trials and tribulations are both unique and common. In art, everything is beautiful, and everything deserves to be told.
Being an artist is who I am, from my earliest childhood memories to now, art plays a significant role. I remember taking chalk in my hand and painting the mango trees in our garden during my visits to India. And I remember leaning on art to help me combat trauma, insecurities, and stress. But it hasn’t been a short road to becoming a full-time artist. I started off as a computer scientist in college, actually, and found it not to my liking. Not because the subject matter was difficult, but for my creative brain dull and not artistically motivating. So, after a year of being uninspired, I changed my major to studio art.
Studying art taught me that it is a skill you hone and fine-tune. I always tell people who inquire about my process and what it means to be an artist. Because there’s a misconception that inspiration must just “come to you” magically and that you’re born with some gift and that’s that. But it’s not just that. It’s so much more than that.. I tell people also that it is a lot like every job in that you go find your inspiration and that you work on your skill every day. And that art is hard work and that it requires as much discipline as other areas of studies.
I think all artists are risk-takers because sometimes all we have is our belief that we can make it. I quit my job to be an artist full time and it definitely is a risk. As you get better at being an artist, you also figure out how to be a better business person. I learned to reach out and create opportunities for myself and how to market my art better. The learning curve has been steep but if you are committed it becomes more of a puzzle than a risk because you understand how to walk the path ahead.
The questions I get asked about being an artist are actually fairly predictable and I anticipated them before I decided to become a full-time artist. However, I was surprised by how encouraging and excited people that I meet are about the fact that I like to tell stories through my art. They see reflections of their childhood, their experiences, and even their bygone family members in my art. I think that’s a reminder that while fine art may not be something most people pursue, it is hard to extract it from us. And that’s why it’s not just in my blood, but in yours too.
Muthulakshmi Anu Narasimhan was born in Southern India and was raised in the Netherlands before finally settling in Virginia. She holds a bachelor’s in studio art from Virginia Tech. She started exploring pastels during my bachelor’s and it was love at first sight. The rich colors and the immediate effect of pastels had her hooked. Although she still works in oil paint, acrylic, pen and ink, and watercolors, pastels are her primary medium. She is deeply inspired by her varied upbringing and Indian roots. She seeks to bridge all her experiences onto the canvas through explorations of technique, color, and subject matter.