Spandita Malik is a New York-based artist from India. Her work is concerned with the current global socio-political state of affairs with an emphasis on women’s rights and gendered violence. Malik specializes in process based work in photography, recently with photographic surface embroideries and collaborations with women in India.
Malik received her MFA in Photography from Parsons School of Design, where she was awarded the Photography Programmatic Scholarship and the Graduate Travel Grant Award. Her work has been featured internationally in China, France, India, Italy, New York and New Zealand.
In Sanskrit, nā́rī means woman, wife, female, or an object regarded as feminine but can also mean sacrifice. While misogyny is hardly exclusive to one country or culture, India bears particularly ghastly symptoms of it. The female body is in real danger there, the frequency of domestic violence in the country is impossible to ignore. While searching for women in India in self-help groups who are learning to embroider, I heard about women who were not allowed to come to the self-help centres. They are either not allowed to leave the house, due to their husbands or fathers, or they don’t feel safe leaving the house. I traveled to Lucknow, Jaipur, and Chamkaur Sahib where I photographed and interviewed these women and asked about their harsh economic and social realities. Some women talk about their domestic violence.
From these conversations, I decided to create artworks where the women embroidered on top of their own portraits which are printed on the traditional local fabric of the region without any guidelines . These artistic collaborations subvert the idea of the artist as the main producer by giving each woman her own creative entity within her own commercial craft. It also engages the problem of representation in portrait photography as addressed by giving women control over their own image. Women’s work in art, throughout history has not been considered fine art. In the west, handicrafts like quilting, embroidery, and needlework were not considered artistically equivalent to the mediums of painting or sculpture. This is still the case in India. This project pushes the boundaries and becomes the language of women’s work as fine art in India.
By traveling to these women’s private spaces I seek an understanding that is only possible with my presence and collaboration that creates a connection between me and the women’s shared language of art; by listening, I learn the true meaning of nā́rī.
Artist Website: https://www.spandita-malik.com/