Emory Report
December 4, 2006
Volume 59, Number 13


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December 4 , 2006
Transformative experience: An artist’s journey

Little did Julia Kjelgaard know that a trip to Bangalore, India, would turn into an artistic journey that would lead her first to an exhibition at Emory, and then back to India as a 2007 Fulbright scholar.

The senior lecturer for Emory’s Visual Arts Program said she found “true inspiration” in the chaos of life in India, the “collision of religions, activities, beauty and wretchedness that plays out in a colorful drama each day.”

Kjelgaard’s exhibition, “Transforming Experience — The India Dream Works,” will be on display at Emory’s Visual Arts Gallery from Dec. 7 to Jan. 27, and is based on the sketchbook entries from her journey. The opening reception on Dec. 7, at 5 p.m. will include a gallery talk by the artist.

The exhibition will feature two related series of work: the India Dream Paintings, large format mixed media works that incorporate digital printing, painting and embroidery; and a large sculptural drawing, an experiment with painting, printing, drawing and sculpture.

Kjelgaard said she was compelled to re-create her experience of India through art, and to use the visual language of colors, texture, space and form to address the most important learning experience she had in India — that of simultaneity and diversity, and the potential to hold conflicting points of view concurrently without judgment. “I wanted to capture the simultaneous nature of reality and the ability of the mind, the heart and the psyche to expand and move into chaos without fear,” she said.

She noted that a native Indian learns to negotiate the diversity and complexity of people, structure, history, religion, family, social obligations, work and traffic “with an alacrity that I found missing in myself as a Westerner.”

“In my new paintings and prints, I am using both an old vocabulary and a new one to touch upon the way all things are interconnected,” she said. “While the subject matter looks like it is about India, for me it is actually about untapped capabilities and the opportunity to expand and enrich our lives beyond measure with what other cultures have to teach us.”

In January, Kjelgaard will be returning to India on a Fulbright research grant for six months. She will be in residence at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, a fine arts school in Bangalore, where she will undertake a documentary project about small storefronts and work on a series of new prints and paintings.

For information, visit www.visualarts.emory.edu.