Madhura Srinivas is a Visual Artist based in Bangalore. She has a background in Psychology, Movement arts and somatic work. Madhura has a Professional Certificate in Visual Storytelling from Maine Media College, USA. Her lived experience has driven her to explore how intergenerational displacement and trauma finds their expression through bloodlines and how one can use Art to process and transmit the gifts and burdens of this inheritance. The creative process is the closest she has come to experiencing spirituality.
A few years ago, I was enrolled in an art program in mid-coast Maine, USA and I was amidst the kind of silence and solitude that I had never experienced in my life as a city girl from India. In the dead of winter, without access to a car or public transport. In a landscape, so foreign and yet very familiar, I began creating these self-portraits as a tool of self-inquiry. It began as a play of light and a practice of photographic technique but soon I found myself being drawn into a deeper process of connecting with my physical body. Seeing myself, as I am, for the first time.
A woman, a woman from India
A woman now one knew there
How does she look to them?
How did she want to be seen?
Who was she away from the Male Gaze, the cultural gaze?
What was in her heart, in her spirit?
I wanted to tell the story of my life. Without words. Through a veil and unspoken poetry, it came rushing through me. In a language so personal that even I could not understand or explain what I was saying through these images. But I felt seen, I felt heard and for the first time, I felt like I existed. There was the world outside of me and a world within me.
That I am a person. I am not my trauma or pain. I am real, My name is Madhura. I spiralled through this process for a few months until I just stopped creating these self-portraits one day. It felt like I sat in ritual to tell a story and now I was done. I was exhausted. A few months later, I returned to India and was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer.
These self-portraits had captured the slow progression of cancer. Now when I look at these images, in cryptic language, my photographs are telling me where to look. For the source of my discomfort and disease, the source of my grief. I am fully recovered from cancer now and I feel indebted to my art for keeping me alive and for telling my story for me.
This story is a part of our new series: Artist Speakeasy. Through this series, we encourage artists to write about their work with full freedom, and with no editorial influence.