The Indian Artist, Final Year: Taking Stock

I have never been good at abstraction. Honestly speaking, I have never wanted to be. I have always looked down upon, and still continue to dismiss, the loose, illegible, mind-bending, and non-figurative nature of work that is not bound to recognized life in the most obvious ways. I am a figurative artist. I work with life, capture the beauty and pain within my heritage and culture, and push myself constantly to get closer and closer to realism in each of my pieces.

Watching many of my peers work with such clarity while creating something so abstract is a true wonder to me. I struggle to understand and recognize the beauty in much of the work that I see from my fellow classmates, but I know that there is great value in their creations. One of the things that I am the most grateful for in my life are my hands, and creating with them is my truest passion. By taking a sculpture course this semester, I thought that I would be exposed to various different mediums and then left to my own devices to create work as I pleased. I did not expect the challenges that I have faced.

My first two projects, The Tarp and The Chair, were simple. They were very safe and I knew that I would end up creating something attractive once I decided what to make. I kick myself now that I allowed myself to explore the exact same subject, a peacock, in both projects. I was very comfortable with the materials and resources, but struggled heavily with the thought of transcending beyond a recognizable form. I think this paralyzed me into staying within the confines of what I know.

I push myself to my limits. I am known as the girl taking the 18 credits, working the job, being the president and leader of multiple organizations, running a business, volunteering at clinics, doing extreme sports, and finding time for art. I push myself in every aspect of my life. My art is the place where I have always pushed and challenged myself in the magnitude and complexity of my compositions, but never in the content. My work is aesthetic and attractive, but it is predictable, par for the course, fitting. I have created a narrative and name for myself and done a good job of fitting it.

The Verb Project pushed me to make something unrecognizable (my verb was “to crease”). I could have easily done another peacock, but I wanted to push myself in a different way this time. I truly enjoyed this piece and this time I feel that though the material was safe, the end product was something outside of my self-constructed box. I wanted to create something simple, not too complicated, but something different. Throughout this semester I have really learned about my weaknesses and limitations. Being forced to create past these limitations has been a challenge to say the least but a welcomed portal. I look forward to incorporating this freeing air that I have captured into my future work.

Until next week,



Riya A

My name is Riya and I am currently a Senior at U of M studying Molecular Biology with a double minor in Art & Design and Sociology on the pre-med track. Art has been a huge passion of mine from a very young age and in the final iteration of my column, I look forward to sharing my passions as they connect to my culture, medicine, and art.

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2 Comments on "The Indian Artist, Final Year: Taking Stock"

Ana Escalona
3 months 5 days ago

Hello Riya!
This post is really inspiring to read! Being so open to share exactly what you are feeling towards art and the journey you have taken to challenge and better yourself really speaks to your character I think. Exploring something not only different, but something that you have not wanted to explore before is something that really spoke to me. It is quite easy to stick to the known paths and never branch out. Creating a large piece like your verb project (what was the verb by the way?) can only be done by taking a big leap of faith in your own abilities to still create something that you are proud of. Hopefully, this new dabble into more of the abstract world has made you more open and thoughtful in your other work.
Have a good week,