Jewish-Indian artist combines cultures and forms in UNT exhibit

Monday, January 25, 2016 - 21:07

What: The work of Siona Benjamin, a Jewish-Indian artist, will visit the University of North Texas for an exhibit titled "Blue Like Me: Siona Benjamin, 2004-2015," which not only toys with artistic forms, but finds new ways of thinking about culture and history.

When: March 3 (Thursday) – April 2 (Saturday)

Where: UNT Art Gallery, 1201 W. Mulberry St., Denton, TX 76201.

Cost: Free.

More information: Miranda Korschun,, 940-565-3814.

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- When most people think of religions in India, they think of Hinduism and Islam. This is no surprise as almost 85 percent of the population in India follows either of the two religions. But what about that other 15 percent? What about those other small pockets of culture spread throughout India?

Siona Benjamin, a Jewish-Indian artist, specializes in exploring those pockets in her art. In "Blue Like Me: Siona Benjamin, 2004-2015," an upcoming art exhibit at the University of North Texas, Benjamin will examine the relationship between Judaism and India, the minority experience and the definition of "home."

The free exhibit opens March 3 (Thursday) and runs through April 2 (Saturday) in the UNT Art Gallery, 1201 W. Mulberry St., Denton. On the opening day of the exhibit, a reception will be held from 5 to7 p.m. Benjamin will deliver a gallery talk at 6 p.m.

Lisa Owen, associate professor of art history at UNT, met Benjamin at a conference promoting South Asian art in 2013 and fell in love with Benjamin's work almost immediately.

"She incorporates elements and motifs from ancient India and Persia, mixing them with more identifiable art forms from contemporary culture," Owen said.

By doing so, Owen points out that Benjamin connects the past and present in new and exciting ways in her work. For example, many of her paintings are quite small, drawing influence from ancient Persian art, yet they also have elements of American Pop Art using vibrant colors and intricate patterns, said Owen.

"I'm very excited that her work is coming to Texas," Owen said. "It hasn't been shown in the state before, and, given the issues of refugees and immigrants, the show will be really exciting for students because the themes she discusses in her work are very salient to today's reality."

Perhaps even more interesting are the multiple forms Benjamin uses to communicate her ideas. Tracee Robertson, director of UNT Galleries, said one of the most exciting pieces of the exhibit will be an interactive tent that students will actually be able to go inside of. She said the piece brings together elements of traditional folk tales and comments on colonialism.

"I think the symbolism and subjects in her works are striking in both beauty and commentary," Robertson said. "The artist is bridging time spans in a unique format which provides a welcome opportunity for the UNT Galleries to serve students."

Due to the cacophony of culture and influences that Benjamin is able to meld into harmonious coexistence, Robertson says the exhibit is bound to have a wide appeal. But it also offers something more vital to potential visitors.

"I think this exhibit, and the UNT art galleries in general, offers an opportunity for rest, rejuvenation and self-discovery."

For more information on the exhibit, contact Miranda Korschun at or 940-565-3814

UNT News Service
(940) 565-2108