Dulari Devi, Prime Minister Modi arriving in a village via helicopter, 2015.
With precise skill and bold artistic vision, the 17 contemporary artists included in this exhibition, many of them women, employ a centuries-old regional styles to express personal experiences and viewpoints. They paint traditional subjects such as Hindu gods but also use their brushes to document and comment on everyday life as well as national and global events.
Mithila style painting, characterized by visually striking compositions, stylized images, delicately detailed surfaces and vibrant colors, was originally practiced exclusively by women on the walls of their homes. In the wake of a severe drought in the 1960s, this mural tradition was transferred to paper, a format that could be sold to bring much-needed income to rural villages.
Painting continues to be a catalyst of economic growth and social change in Mithila. For many women, artistic success has translated into financial independence and community respect. Dulari Devi, a woman from a lower caste community who had been a housemaid before earning her living as an artist, declares, “Ever since I started painting, I do it like worship . . . painting is my everything.”
(Photo © Asian Art Museum.)