For a country as vast and paradoxical as India, it is impossible to generalize about the role of women in society. Worshiped as shakti, oppressed as chattel—these seeming contradictions have left many Western observers stumbling into stereotypes and misunderstanding. In Daughters of India, photographer Stephen P. Huyler celebrates the strength, courage, resourcefulness, and creativity of Indian women from a wide variety of backgrounds.
For a country as vast and paradoxical as India, it is impossible to generalize about the role of women in society. Worshiped as shakti (the Hindu concept of divine, feminine sacred force), oppressed as chattel—these seeming contradictions have left many Western observers stumbling into stereotypes and misunderstanding. In Daughters of India—on view at the Fowler Museum at UCLA from March 29–September 13, 2009—photographer Stephen Huyler celebrates the resiliency and creativity of Indian women from a wide variety of backgrounds in a series of thirty-eight works that includes both contemplative, detailed portraits and daily scenes enlivened with the bright hues of India.
Notably, artistic creativity plays an important part in the lives of many of the subjects. Several of the photographs on display depict women expressing themselves and addressing others through paintings, sculpture, embroidery, and the creation of decorative elements in their households (including kolam, rice flower drawings executed on the ground in front of their homes). In others, visitors can consider how the full force of these women’s creativity is brought to bear simply in overcoming the obstacles presented by poverty, caste prejudice, and other hardships. Taken together, these sensitive photographs form intimate portrayals of the lives, activities, and rituals of these remarkable Indian “everywomen.”
About the Photographer:
Stephen Huyler is a cultural anthropologist, art historian, author and widely exhibited photographer. This exhibition is presented in conjunction with his new book Daughters of India: Art and Identity. His other books include Painted Prayers: Women’s Art in Village India (1994) and Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion (1999) and his work is featured in the current San Diego exhibition India Adorned: Selections from the Mingei International Museum’s Stephen Huyler Collection.
The Fowler Museum thanks Stephen P. Huyler for providing his images for Daughters of India, also featured in a new publication of the same name. The accompanying programs have been made possible by the Yvonne Lenart Public Public Programs Fund and Manus, the support group for the Fowler Museum.