Somehow, when you talk about Indian art, you think of exquisite bronze sculpture or fine wood carving or Mughal miniatures...and you forget the everyday beauty that Indian women create in their homes, all across the land.
I am stunned by the variety and richness of Indian folk art whenever I encounter it.
How can one contiguous land mass spawn so many diverse styles, so many forms of aesthetic expression?
The point came home to me yet again when I saw a collection of photos of everyday life in Indian villages. The photographer is Dr. Stephen Huyler, an American who has spent 30 years in India, and published several books. The photo above is of a small hut in Kutch, Gujarat. It is from his book, Painted Prayers.
Here are some more photos from his collection: this one below is from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. I was struck by the sophistication of the lady's sense of aesthetic - her eye for form and shape and contrast is undeniable. The way she is making her home rise from its desert surroundings is just stunning.
And here is another photo from Sawai Madhopur, on the outskirts of Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary. Walls and floors in this part of India are often decorated with elaborate drawings. I've seen life in that area of Rajasthan - the land is arid, life is hard I'm sure. And in the middle of it all is someone creating beauty and serenity.
And this, the last one below, from Tamil Nadu - what went through her mind, as she drew this? Did she feel the beauty? I have drawn smaller versions of these myself, with rice powder and rice paste, and I know how engrossing the activity is, and how much you can lose yourself in it.
These are just a small sample from Dr. Huyler's photos. He is writing another book now, called India's Daughters: Art and Identity. In his own words, this books is "a profile of 20 different Indian women from diverse backgrounds and professions all over India. Each is in some way an artist, although not all would consider themselves as such. It is a much more personal survey than Painted Prayers, attempting to give voice to Indian women's empowerment through their own words, stories and art."
I'm looking forward to it.