New Delhi: Walking into New York’s Central Park from its south-east entrance, one is greeted by a curious sculpture of a woman draped in a sari, her torso covered with the heads of children. The 18-ft tall sculpture, titled ‘Ancestor’, was created by noted British-Indian sculptor Bharti Kher and was unveiled at the park on 8 September.
Commissioned by New York’s Public Art Fund, is in the collection of Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and will ultimately be housed at the museum.
In a statement, the Public Art Fund called the creation “[Kher’s] most ambitious artwork to date”. Ancestors is a part of the artist’s ongoing “Intermediaries” series in which she reassembles small, broken clay figurines of humans, animals and mythical beings into hybrid figures that defy a particular, fixed identity.
Ancestor depicts a “universal mother figure linking our cultural and personal pasts and futures”, the Public Art Fund statement said. “It embodies the complexity and potential of the ‘Intermediaries’, and of Indic and global traditions of creator deities that challenge identities by bringing together male and female into a single philosophical form”
The patina bronze sculpture of this nebulous ancestor is made of, among other things, heads of 23 children adjoined and extending from her body, embodying “multiculturalism, pluralism, and interconnectedness”.
“A mother figure is so needed now in this time of deep polarity and instability. The female body is always a contested site of politics both here in America where she stands and at home in India where the female body is too often a site for patriarchal posturing that fails to protect.” Kher wrote on her Instagram page after the unveiling, sharing an image of the sculpture.
“Ancestor is here to remind us that we are connected like links in a chain to each other and to her. We are all family at the end of the day, we are her children. Each and every living being is equal; It’s a thing worth remembering,” she added in the Instagram post.
Ancestor will be on view till 27 August, 2023, at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park.
“I invite viewers to leave their wishes, dreams and prayers with Ancestor; and to pass on their wisdom of living and love to the next generation,” Kher was quoted in the Public Art Fund statement. “She is the keeper of all memories and time. A vessel for you to travel into the future, a guide to search and honour our past histories, and a companion — right here, right now — in New York City.”
Kher was born in London in 1969 and has lived in New Delhi since 1993. She has worked across painting, sculpture and installation for over two decades. She has conducted exhibitions around the world, including in Ireland, Canada, China, Japan, Switzerland and the UK. Her works are part of collections in London, Queensland, New Delhi, Minneapolis, Seoul, Korea, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, among other places. Kher works out of both New Delhi and London.
In 2015, she was awarded ‘Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters’, France’s highest cultural award. She was also conferred the Sanskriti Award by the Sanskriti Foundation in 2003
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)
Also read: DAG redefines Indian ‘masterpieces’. Beyond Ravi Varma, there’s Ambadas, Nicholas Roerich
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