I am inspired by traditional styles of painting, like Indian/Persian miniatures, Byzantine icons and Jewish and Christian illuminated manuscripts, but I blend these ancient forms with pop cultural elements from our times to create a new vocabulary of my own. Using the rich colors of gouache I apply layers, literally with the paint, as well as metaphorically with the content.
My painting is my ritual, my celebration, my essence. My research and ideas flow simultaneously together and make up the fabric of my work. I use gouache paint and 22K gold leaf to form layers of jewel like color. My background in painting, enameling on metal and theatre set design all influence my work. My character are real as they act out contemporary situations and dilemmas, while also celebrating my womanhood, my abilities, my strengths and my ambitions. The ornateness of the culture from which I came once seemed difficult and unnecessary to apply in my work. Now I have found a way to use it, to be able to weave current issues and parts of my life in its intricacies, thus making this ornateness strong and meaningful. In this way, I attempt to create a dialogue between the ancient and the modern, forcing a confrontation of unresolved issues.
I am an artist originally from Bombay, India of Bene Israel Jewish descent. My work reflects my background and the transition between my old and new works. Having grown up in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim society, having been educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools, having been raised Jewish and now living in America, I have always had to reflect upon the cultural boundary zones in which I have lived. In this transcultural America I feel a strong need to make are that will speak to my audience of our similarities, not our differences as I feel I can contribute to make much-needed “repair” (Tikkun) through my art. I would like my audience to re-evaluate their notions and concepts about identity and race, thus understanding that such misconceptions could lead to racism, hate and war.
Siona Benjamin is a painter originally from Bombay, now living in the US. She has to her credit two American MFA degrees, one in painting from the Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and the other in Theater set design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work reflects her background of being brought up Jewish in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim India. In her paintings she combines the imagery of her past with the role she plays in America today, making a mosaic inspired by both Indian miniature paintings and Jewish and Christian illuminated manuscripts. Siona has exhibited extensively in US, Europe and Asia. Recipient of several awards, residencies and grants, Siona's work has been featured in: The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Jewish Week in NYC and NJ, The Boston Globe, Art in America, Art New England, Art and Antiques, Moment magazine and Nashim-A Jewish Feminist Art Journal, amongst others. Siona lives and works in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, USA.