Siona Benjamin: Creativity in a Time of Crisis
How has this pandemic affected you and your creative output? How are you adapting to the new realities?
I believe with problems comes the will to find solutions. With strife comes the need to find answers. With difficulty comes invention and innovation. Worries crowd the mind and heart about whether postponed jobs and commissions will be resumed. In this time of uncertainty, one does not know the answers, but magically when I paint, all worries melt away and the flow of creativity takes over. It’s this creativity that saves us artists I believe every single time! I am trying to learn new ways to overcome old ways of doing things as change is inevitable and we are all in flux.
Please share any insights you have learned from this “lockdown/self-isolation”? Also, is there a special role you feel artists can play in response to the pandemic?
I believe that this pandemic has forced us all to slow down, think, evaluate and meditate on everything. To re-evaluate our goals perhaps, our thinking about the directions we might be taking in our work. I think this negative untamed pandemic has forced us to rethink many things in our lives. But I believe in the power of art to be able to keep making change in this world. I strive to accomplish these goals and making art gives me more strength under my wings to achieve this. Making art is a solitary process anyway and so it is critical that we understand that this is temporary and try to make the best of what we currently have.
How do you think this will affect artists, the art world and how people interact with art? How do you feel this crisis might reshape our societies in general?
I believe that art, and learning in general, will change and evolve. As they say, change is the mother of invention. Instead of lamenting the loss of old ways of doing things, I think adapting to newer ways will make it less painful if we accept the new norm. My local museum, the Montclair Art Museum, has invited me to make a video sharing my current work and my studio setting. They will share this with the local community and their patrons and they plan to showcase a new artist every month this way. This I feel is a good example of doing something innovative to try to continue their message and mission. A shift of the paradigm, of the norm, is the only solution to make the best of the worst. Undoubtedly, it’s tough, and saying this is easier than practising it, but do we have a choice?!
Siona Benjamin is a painter originally from Mumbai (Bombay), now living in the US. Her work reflects her background of being brought up Jewish in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim India. In her paintings she combines the imagery of her past with the role she plays in America today, making a mosaic inspired by both Indian miniature paintings and illuminated manuscripts. She has an MFA in painting from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Il and an MFA in Theater set design from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign. She has exhibited her work in the US, Europe and Asia. In 2010-11 she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for an art project titled Faces: Weaving Indian Jewish Narratives, in which her research was conducted in India. Her work has been featured in numerous newspapers and publications such as The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe, The Times of India, Art in America, Art New England, Art and Antiques, ArtNews, etc.