I make drawings and paintings depicting human and nonhuman figures in scenes of intimate encounter with each other and their environments. These scenes are extrapolated from experiences with my own body, community, and queerness, all rooted in the context of South Asia. I remix imagery from lived experiences, sacred landscapes, and archival research to imbricate the social, sacral, and political stakes of building connection to place. I layer the atmospheric marks of an airbrush with the tactility of a paintbrush to alternately dissolve and sharpen boundaries between forms. Through unstable spatial narratives, I create temporal openings to construct fictions of living otherwise, including the possibilities of enacting transformation, fantasy, and repair.
Over the past year, I have made drawings and paintings of Gharial crocodiles, a critically endangered species found in South Asia and represented in the collection of the Yale Peabody Museum. This work addresses systems of representation of the natural world and the fabrication of the nature/culture binary. At the natural history museum, animal bodies are assigned objecthood through the label of 'specimens,' isolated and removed from their original context and made permanently available for the production of scientific knowledge. The museum’s specimens embody a severed relationship between a figure and its environment, implemented through colonial encounter with and capture of an ‘other.’ Specimens exist as atemporal evidentiary objects, sorted under taxonomic labels and mined for information. In my paintings, I repatriate the Gharial specimens into observed and invented landscapes composed of elements from crocodile habitats in Pakistan. I imagine a fantasy in which the Gharial specimens are liberated from their present condition, can re-inhabit an environment which might feel native to them, and receive the spiritual rites of death. The work functions as an altar to the Gharial specimens, offering a vision of repair while acknowledging its impossibility.
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