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Sandy Journal

‘Enchanting India’ exhibit explores Sandy artist’s heritage

Jul 01, 2022 09:54AM ● By Heather Lawrence

Durga Ekambaram of Sandy was named an emerging artist at the Utah Arts Festival 2022 and uses her work to explore new art techniques and teach people about India. (Durga Ekambaram/Instagram @strokes_durga)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Artist and Sandy resident Durga Ekambaram has called several places home. Her new art exhibit “Enchanting India” explores India, where she was born and raised. It’s on display in West Valley until July 20.

Ekambaram said creating these works helped her grow as artist as she used several mediums. But the subject matter also connected her to her cultural identity.

“When you look on social media for Indian art, you see the same things. It’s the Taj Mahal, Ganesha (the Hindu deity) and elephants. But we are much more than that,” Ekambaram said.

“I give equal importance to things from all 27 states in India. Each has its own language, culture and food, and I try to capture as much of that as I can,” Ekambaram said.

Her diverse exhibit is on display at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South in West Valley City, until July 20. Admission is free. Ekambaram’s works are also on Instagram @strokes_durga.

Ekambaram grew up in the coastal city of Chennai where her mother was an artist. She took up art as a hobby, but chose engineering as a career.  

“A few years ago, I started looking around for shows where I could display my art. I work in several mediums, including chalk, mixed media, oil, watercolor and acrylics.

“I was very intrigued with the idea of doing a show all about India. I think people are interested to learn about it,” Ekambaram said.

As the Indian population in Utah increases, so does the interest in Indian culture. Ekamabram said the Indian Cultural Center and Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple of Utah in South Jordan are places where Indian culture is strengthened.  

“We have a nonprofit and celebrate all the festivals there. There are language classes and dancing,” Ekambaram said.

These diverse cultural aspects are the subjects of her art.

“I try to capture all these. I feel it must be informative to others. I incorporate lots of colors and different mediums. I always want to use bright colors!” she said.

One example is her mixed media piece “Natarajar,” which was created exclusively for this show. “It is a depiction of the Hindu god Shiva. The pose is described in many Hindu texts and it is a well-known sculptural subject in India,” Ekambaram said.

She also used this piece to grow as an artist. “I used clay and mixed media on canvas. There is a base coat and then colors on top to get a stripped effect. There is a lot of symbolism in this piece.”

Looking closely, the viewer realizes the dancer is stepping on something. Ekambaram said this is symbolic of an evil thing that Shiva is destroying through dance. 

She also takes something traditional, like Ganesha (represented as an elephant-headed deity), but puts a new spin on it. “I painted ‘Ganesha’ using a reverse glass method, which I learned from my mother.”

Her watercolor “Veena” shows the traditional stringed instrument, which Ekambaram learned to play when she was young.

The exhibit at UCCC is her third that focuses exclusively on India. She’s shown work at the Utah Children’s Museum, and five of her pieces were included in Exhibitions on Main in Salt Lake. She also does a lot of chalk art.

Ekambaram was highlighted as an emerging artist during the Utah Arts Festival in June. She demonstrated her most recent interest: the upside down method.

“The entire painting was done upside down, and then flipped to be displayed right side up. This unique way of painting an artwork is equally challenging and gratifying,” Ekambaram said.

Ekambaram is encouraged by how many people in her adopted home take art seriously. She’s participated in shows in South Jordan, where she used to live, and the Plein Air event in Sandy. The City Journals have included her in several articles.

“It’s very gratifying to know and learn from other artists, including young kids. We see each other at events, exchange ideas and keep in touch on Instagram.

“It’s good to know art is something people look at seriously,” she said. “It’s a wake-up call that I could change from doing art as a hobby to becoming a professional artist.”