Siona Benjamin is an artist originally from Bombay, of Bene Israel Jewish descent. Siona’s work reflects her complex cultural background and the transition between the old and new worlds. She is inspired by traditional styles of painting, like Indian/Persian miniatures, Byzantine icons and Jewish illuminated manuscripts, but blends these ancient forms with pop cultural elements from our times to create a new vocabulary of her own. In her work she raises questions about what and where is “home”, while evoking issues such as identity, immigration, motherhood, and the role of art in social change. Having grown up in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim society, educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools, and been raised Jewish and now living in America, Siona has always had to reflect upon the cultural boundary zones in which she has lived. In this multicultural America, she feels a strong need to make art that will bring out similarities, not differences, thus constructing the art-making process contribute to the conversation about issues like stereotyping and religious intolerance. She has her first MFA in painting and second MFA in Theater set design. She been recently awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2010-11 for an art project titled: Faces: Weaving Indian Jewish Narratives. Research for this project has been conducted in India. First exhibit has been planned for April 2013 at the Prince of Wales museum in Mumbai, India.
Siona says about her work: “I am inspired by traditional styles of painting, like Indian/Persian miniatures, Byzantine icons and Jewish and Christian illuminated manuscripts, but I blend these ancient forms with pop cultural elements from our times to create a new vocabulary of my own...Painting is my ritual, my celebration, my essence. My research and ideas flow simultaneously together and make up the fabric of my work...Having grown up in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim society, having been educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools, having been raised Jewish and now living in America, I have always had to reflect upon the cultural boundary zones in which I have lived. In this transcultural America I feel a strong need to make art that will speak to my audience of our similarities, not our differences as I feel I can contribute to a much-needed "repair" (Tikkun) through my art. I would like my audience to re-evaluate their notions and concepts about identity and race, thus understanding that such misconceptions could lead to racism, hate and war.”
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