Lilith in the New World

Artist statement for installation at Montclair Art Museum 2023-24

 In my installation “Lilith in the New World,” the work of Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, the drama of Indian Amar Chitra comic books and Bollywood posters serve as an inspiration. The blond heroine in Lichtenstein’s paintings has been recast as a blue maiden. Based on Jewish Midrashic legends, the character Lilith is identified as the first Eve in the Garden of Eden. Lilith made a return in feminist history as an iconic symbol that represents the oppressed, as a goddess and as an example of female strength and mystery. Bringing her forth to today, she becomes the woman targeted, the sacrificing mother, the mourning war widow, the violated rape victim, the (other) blue woman.

Lilith in the New World by Siona Benjamin

 Blindfolded blue figures ask us about justice, while many headed women who look in every direction at the same time, ride away on horses to distant lands, perhaps in search of refuge. A woman on either side opens up raw wounds of this and many of our injustices. A lion roars, pure white doves soar and butterflies flutter away, is this the paradise we wanted?  A voice sings an old Hindi song, fragrant childhood memories ring in my head. Distant moons shine, blue elephants romp and promise a new tomorrow as we gather strength in the menorahs of our ancestors.

Lilith in the New World - Siona Benjamin standing at the bottom of the stairs

 Having grown up Jewish in a predominately Hindu and Muslim India, then immigrating to America, I have always had to reflect upon the cultural boundary zones in which I have lived. Thus, in my paintings I employ blue-skin figures as a device to more provocatively raise issues about identity, immigration and the role of art in social change. In today’s politics we are always pitting “us against them” as we refuse to understand the other person’s point of view, which in turn spirals a series of misunderstandings and provokes the inevitable “Blam” of wars and violence.

Siona Benjamin

Lilith in the new world by Siona Benjamin
Lilith in the New World by Siona Benjamin
Lilith in the New World from outside the museum