Indo-American arts council's 7th annual erasing borders 2010:
Exhibition of contemporary Indian art of the Diaspora
Urmila Mohan
Urmila Mohan Urmila Mohan

Artist Statement

As an immigrant South Asian woman in the U.S., I am subject to attributions of difference based on constructs of race, gender, and historical and philosophical biases. Through self-representations, I explore ideas of difference and the relation between depth and surface, the corporeal and spiritual, and the transcendent and the immanent.

Our skin imbues us with humanity and individuality and forms the vocabulary of personhood. Humans expose it, cover it, paint it, tattoo it, scar it, and pierce it. In a figure of speech or writing, the word ‘skin’ often represents the wholeness of self as in “I nearly jumped out of my skin.” Using the metaphor of ‘skin as surface’ and vice-versa I render images of my body or create objects that act as materializations of selfhood.

From historic to contemporary times, the condition and display of the human body remains a fundamental marker of identity with a specific type of represented body (male and white as in most colonized areas of the world) as the norm against which all other bodies are read and (in)validated. Using various representations of my body, I attempt to re-possess my image while playing with the distance between subjectification and objectification, intimacy and distance, and nudity and nakedness. Through my art, I hope to stimulate discussion on the physical and metaphorical role of skin in the formation of identity, and render visible the ideologies and values associated with the body, clothing, and other material manifestations of self.


  • MFA Studio Art, Ceramics, Penn State University, State College, Pennsylvania, 2009.
  • BA(Hons) Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 2000.
  • 5 yr Diploma, Communication Design (Video), National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India, 1998.

Work Experience

  • 2009 – ongoing, Apprenticeship, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA.
  • 2009, Summer Art Teacher, East Orange Cultural Center, East Orange, NJ.
  • 2007 – 08, Symposium Co-ordinator, ‘The Culture of Ornament & Decoration’, Penn State Univ., PA.
  • 2007 – 08, Teaching Assistant and Instructor of Record, Penn State University, PA.
  • 2003 – 04, Marketing Communicator, Smyth Solutions, NJ.
  • 2000 – 03, Graphic Designer, Exinom Technologies Inc., Transworld Info. Systems, NJ.


  • 2009, Awarded 2010 Members Solo Exhibition at Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, NJ.
  • 2008, Penn State Graduate Research Show (3rd place), Penn State University, PA.
  • 2007 – 09, Graduate Assistantship, Penn State University, PA.


  • 2009 ‘Hunterdon Art Museum Members Juried Show’, Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, NJ.
  • 2009 ‘Prequel,’ Sara Meltzer Gallery, New York City, NY.
  • 2009 ‘Skin Deep,’ MFA Thesis Show, Penn State University, PA.
  • 2008 ‘Woman!’ The Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies, New York City, NY.
  • 2008 ‘The Golden Calf: A Compilation of Fixation & Obsession,’ Crane Arts, Philadelphia, PA.
  • 2008 Penn State Graduate Research Show, HUB Gallery, Penn State University, PA.


  • ‘Slonim Revisited: Images of Home in Emmett Leader’s Art,’ Ceramics: Art & Perception, June 2008.
  • ‘SOFA 2007: A Review,’ Terracotta, October 2007.
  • ‘Reflecting Light, Radiating Life: A Persian Luster Dish,’ Terracotta, April 2007.
  • ‘Laying the Foundation for a New Tradition: Japanese Contemporary Ceramics,’ Terracotta, January 2007.
  • Corporate Websites and Identity Design (various), 2000-2004.
  • ‘Aliens in their own land,’ Video, 20 mins, Xavier Center for Culture and Communication, India, 1998.
  • Channel [V] Animated ID Spots, Bombay, India, 1996.
  • ‘Yatra (A Journey): Shilpgram Cultural Festival,’ Video, 20 mins, West Zone Cultural Center, Government of India, 1995.


  • Interdisciplinary study and research across art history, anthropology and studio art.
  • Multi-material artwork across clay, fabric, fiber, printmaking, photography.
  • Web design, graphic design and basic documentation/office software.
  • Strong communication, presentation, organization and collaboration skills.

Languages Read/Spoken

  • English
  • Hindi
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