MEET SIONA BENJAMIN
As a Bene Israel Jew from India now living in the United States, I am a transcultural artist. My perspective bridges the traditional and the modern, and sparks discourse across cultures.
My family gradually dispersed, mostly to Israel and America, but my parents remained in India. I still recall the ornate synagogues of my Bombay childhood: the oil lamps, the velvet-and-silver-covered Torahs, a chair left vacant for the prophet Elijah. Having grown up in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim society, educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools, raised Jewish in India, and now calling America home, I have always had to reflect on cultural boundary zones. So, in my paintings I combine the imagery of my past with the role I play in America today, making a mosaic inspired by illuminated manuscripts and multicultural mythology.
Many blue-skinned characters populate my paintings. This self-portrait of sorts takes on many roles and forms through which I theatrically explore ancient and contemporary dilemmas. These characters enact their stories – often myths from various cultures and religions — becoming symbols of a timeless global identity free of prejudices and boundaries.
Siona Benjamin has an MFA in painting from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Ill., and an MFA in theater set design from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign. She has exhibited in the United States, Europe and Asia.
She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2011 to India, and a second Fulbright fellowship in 2016-17 to Israel. Siona’s work has been in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Financial Times, The Jewish Week in New York City and New Jersey, The Boston Globe, Art in America, Art New England, Art and Antiques, ArtNews, Moment magazine, The Times of India, The Mumbai Mirror, Marg Magazine, The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel and other publications.