India Journal: Art with a Conscience
August 1, 2008, 7:56 am
Filed under: art, India, social action

One of the unexpected highlights of our trip to India was meeting Stefan Eicher at the art gallery that he opened earlier this year in Delhi.  Hearing his story was wonderful, and hearing his calling was even better.

Stefan sticks out in India the way we did – with his white skin and Western looks.  But he is an Indian citizen.  He grew up in India, and that is his home, despite an American lineage.  He went to college in the U.S., but returned.  He has a deep soul, and a desire to use the gifts of God in a way that changes the world.

Stefan is a part of a group called Artnet, “a community of artists – musicians, vocalists, painters, graphic designers, and many others – who desire to see society transformed through God’s effective use of our artistic skills.” He is a multi-talented artist himself, but when paired with his heart for justice, his work is prophetic in a number of ways.

Stefan also runs Reflection Art Gallery and Studios, which is a space dedicated to showing and creating art that affirms life and dignity.  It’s a place for artists to hold a mirror to society.  The work currently on display there is from an exhibition of Creative Conscience – a group of amateur and professional artists who come together once a year to wrestle with issues in society.  They spend a week in community, reflecting together on one particular issue, and then create art together.*

The current exhibition is called “The Disappeared: A Collection of Paintings on the Unborn Girl.”  India has many more men than women.  This is because millions of women, who should be alive today, are not.  Creative Conscience brought together eighteen artists around the issue of female foeticide as one of the primary causes of gender imbalance.  Like many societies, in India, men are valued more highly than women.  But often the negative attitude toward women doesn’t stop there.  Because of India’s culture surrounding marriage, which involves the payment of dowries and the production of huge, incredibly expensive wedding ceremonies, girl babies are seen as a burden on families.  With the “advances” of medical technology, it has now become common for a pregnant couple to have an ultrasound done on their unborn child for the purpose of gender identification – if the developing baby is a girl, she is at high risk for being terminated.*

0731080701_edited A British medical journal recently gave conservative estimates that 10 million girls were aborted over the past two decades in India.  Sadly, higher education levels do not mean higher sensitivity to this issue – in fact, the incidence of female foeticide is higher in wealthier, more educated families.  The picture to the left is Stefan’s contribution to the collection – two paintings, calling attention to the women who should be with us, but aren’t.  The painting at the top of this post, by an artist named Jojo Thomas, is also a part of the exhibition.

In addition to the collective work of these gatherings of artists, Reflection has studio space for artists in residence to work.  It’s hard to describe the feeling of walking in there – though the work hanging on the walls certainly carries an intensity with it, the space is clean, beautiful, and relaxing.  It’s quite an oasis from the bustling, smoggy, overcrowded city in which it is placed.

Later in the same day that we met Stefan, we met his beautiful wife, Neeru, who is an attorney.  She comes from a Brahman background (very high caste), is obviously highly educated, and well spoken.  Interestingly, she has noticeably set aside her Brahminical position as a follower of Jesus, and put her passion and intelligence to work, fighting court cases on behalf of the poor and the marginalized.  She is fiery in some ways, and gentle in others.  It was a real delight for us to hear her share with us.  She, like her husband, is using her talents in a prophetic way.

Writing this particular journal entry is very exciting to me, in part because this experience was so meaningful on a personal level, but in part because of the painting below, which is also a part of “The Disappeared” collection.  It is a piece by Indrajit Sundaram, called “The Parable of the Fortress,” and is a fairly large piece, at 36″ x 48″.  It tells the story of broken notions of masculinity, and the need to break through.

Because we wanted to be a part of this important project, and because we enjoy collecting art that moves us, Michelle and I have purchased this painting from Reflection.  Getting this large an object of a fragile nature from Delhi to Seattle will be an adventure, but one we’ll gladly take.  We’ll be able to take delivery later this year.

By the way, if you appreciate fine art, you could very easily pay for your trip to India with the money you’d save over purchasing comparable art anywhere in the Western world.  Don’t buy art because it’s a bargain, but don’t let dollars dictate value, either.  If you would like Stefan’s contact information, drop a comment, and I’ll send it along.

* For the purpose of disclosure, much of the material from this section of the post comes directly from the exhibition booklet, compiled by the Reflection gallery.


4 Comments so far
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Wow… I love this! I have been very affected by the awful reality of the fate of so many baby girls in India… Stefan’s paintings are powerful. Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Shanda Conger

Great article about our family friend, Stefan E., and his God-given ministry. Thank you!

Comment by Rita

Please email us Stefan’s info ~ went to India in Nov 07, again in Sept of this year for a mission that rescues girls from female infanticide and plan to go next summer…interested in learning more about his work, family etc…thanks!

Comment by Niji Stanley

The first painting you present is wonderfully executed visually as well as the subject matter exposed forthright and honestly. I see a very open eyed woman dominating another’s mouth!!! Another is angry in the background! Yes. And in context we understand that the open eyed woman is shuting up the older woman of tradition.. They need monitoring and even brought to an understanding change of thought that precedes authoritative words… in India’s case out of the old filthy evil traditions of infanticide. Subject matters so much in whatever form of expression the artist may use. Stefan’s empty chairs and shoes in blue is powerful… powerful as God speaking to Elijah out of silence on the mountain after Jeezebel. Thanks for sharing and promoting this art. May the love of God through Jesus our radical Lord change the minds and hearts of us all gathered to Him alone with the comfort and help of Holy Spirit graciously active and faithfully with us. — David.

Comment by David Beasley

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