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Ditmas Park artist creates 60-foot mural celebrating Hindu goddess

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Talk about going out on a limb!

“Eyes of Time,” the latest exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is a 60-foot wall mural featuring Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction and rebirth, who has six arms, three legs, and three breasts. The artist responsible said she spent years developing the female-focused imagery used in the show, during which time she became especially drawn to Kali — one of the female figures honored in Judy Chicago’s famed installation “The Dinner Party,” which is the centerpiece of the center’s collection.

“Kali represents as certain kind of femininity that we don’t often see represented,” said Chitra Ganesh, who was born and raised in Brooklyn and has lived in Ditmas Park for the past 10 years. “The fact that she’s portrayed as angry and confrontational and powerful, not a dainty lady.”

Hanging above the mural are over 150 prayer flags, which are intended to invoke an institution or temple, Ganesh said. The flags — each of which has a silkscreen image printed on it — are made from her mother’s old saris, as well as materials she picked up on her travels to India and Vietnam, fabric houses in the Garment District, and Materials for the Arts in Long Island City.

“I was living in India last year for one year with my partner, that’s when we sourced,” she said. “I went to these amazing markets in New Dehli and Saigon to get some of the materials.”

In addition to the mural, the exhibition features five prints exploring feminine images from artists Shoichi Ida, Kiki Smith, Barbara Jones-Hogu Born, and others pulled from the museum’s collection, as well as “Tales of Amnesia,” an Indian comic book-inspired zine Ganesh made in 2002. On a column in the middle of the room, there are two small, ancient sculptures of Kali and the Egyptian warrior goddess Sekhmet.

“The museum has an extraordinary collection,” said Ganesh. “To have figures of Kali and Sekhmet that were from the 17th century and 664 B.C.E., respectively, just sitting on the column with my stuff was amazing.”

This is Ganesh’s first solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. She said that putting together the show inside the arts institution was a profound experience in and of itself, as she discovered just how many people in the borough her art could reach.

“Working there when it was both open and closed you see old people, young people, rich people, poor people, school groups, individuals, artists,” she said. “It’s really very active, happening space.”

“Chitra Ganesh: Eyes of Time” at Brooklyn Museum [200 Eastern Pkwy. between Washington and Flatbush avenues in Prospect Heights, (718) 638–5000, www.brooklynmuseum.org]. Exhibition runs through July 12. $12 ($8 members and students, free for children under 12).

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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