The Pros and Cons to Making Art and Doing Research in India

Welcome to this week’s post! This week I am discussing more of my own biography. I hope you enjoy.

Before coming to India, I was super excited about the possibilities of making art here and doing research from India. It seemed like it would be more inspirational than sitting in the States. There have been both pros and cons to both my artwork and research in India. First, I will discuss my photographic practice and then I will discuss the research.

I had pretty bad artist block after finishing my Graduate Thesis work. For a year and a half I had created work dealing with the use of photography in art history. Once I had finished that work, I was not sure where to go. I tried photographing photographic objects; I tried making photographs in museums. This museum idea finally stuck. For several years after graduate school I make photographs of the shadows of objects in art museums. The work is about photography’s place in the hierarchy of art. Photography lives in the shadows,” as a fellow graduate student Sebastien Bouncy once said. Photography is used to document the other arts within the houses of museums but is less often the focus of collections, research and display (although this is changing).

During this period I was constantly dreaming of traveling back to India. I did another small project with snapshots, both my own and those that I found online. I searched online for photographs of Delhi. I printed those photographs as well as photographs of me and my family. Then I cut out myself and my family and glued us to the photographs from Delhi and Agra. Then I scanned these collages and printed them again, turning them into montages. I had work with ideas of the family snapshot during my first year and a half in graduate school and snapshots continue to be of interest to me today.

However, I was not overly passionate about these two projects, just something to tide me over. Finally, my break came in the form of Art Junction Artist Residency. Before heading to the residency I did research on travel photography and travel snapshots. Thus, before coming to the residency I had an idea of what I wanted to do. However, the idea and final product was different from my initial vision. But this gave me something to think about, a new direction to go.

Honestly, I thought I would continue with these ideas when I returned to India last April. In a way, I guess I do continue with the travel photography thing as I do make photographs whenever I travel throughout Rajasthan and I will eventually use them for a project. I envision something sculptural or installation based. But this is slow going.

I was surprised to find I wanted to photograph myself. The artist block has definitely been lifted. The idea of photographing myself even stuck when I went back to the States for a month. Interesting how that is. I have always been pretty introspective and that is probably obvious from some of my blog posts. Now that is being filtered through my work. Though, I am still interested in pursuing highly conceptual ideas about photography theory. I just need a new idea.

Beyond idea generation, there are other aspects of being an artist that are more difficult here in India. For one, it is hard to print. There is not a good printer in Udaipur which means you have to send digital files to a print lab. I have found calibration to be a problem as I am used to printing my own prints. Exhibiting is also difficult. One, I do not have the money to pay for juried shows. Two, most of the exhibitions I know about are in the States or Europe so shipping becomes an issue. These are things to be worked on. There are a growing number of photography festivals here and I have applied to them, unfortunately with no luck. I will persist. Photography is still a growing art field in India, so it is an exciting place to be.

As for research, it is a bit more daunting here in India. For the most part, I only have the internet, which is great for discovering new artists, but not so great for general research or in-depth research. Books are heavy so hard to travel with, thus I do not have many books here. Libraries are difficult here as well; I do not even know where a library is in Udaipur. I wonder if they have inter-library loan here.

I also had many dreams of traveling to the different photography festivals but so far that has been out of reach do to money. I hate money. It is the devil. Hopefully I will make it to Mumbai in March for the Focus Photography Festival. I have a great interest in the festivals being held here in India and hope over the next few years I get to explore them more.

Furthermore, the City Palace Museum here in Udaipur has a collection of photographs from the Royal Family. It is one of the largest collections in India. It remains just out of reach. I apparently have to have a meeting with the Maharana (King) of Udaipur to get permission to research the collection. One day I will have that meeting. I will keep you posted.

It is nice to sit here and type though. I am sitting on the top floor of the house I live in. It is open, so I can feel the cool breeze, the warmth of the sun. I can see the Aravali hills in the distance and I can hear Indian music coming from the streets, as well as, birds chirping. Not a bad place to sit and think and type.

Probably the one thing that could improve my situation the most would be for me to be less shy. It is terrible. I am horrible at promoting myself and terrible at networking. I may forever be unsuccessful because of this. So if anyone has any helpful tips on non-annoying self-promotion do let me know.

So far this has definitely been an experience. Not quite living up to the fantasy in my mind but pretty good.

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By |2018-10-13T16:23:21-05:00January 31st, 2017|about me, Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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