In Focus: Namita Kapoor

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Like I've said before, there are so many amazing women doing amazing things--I love profiling their diversity of talent and interests here on the blog.

Meet Namita Kapoor--a Bay Area native and visual artist whose work has been internationally exhibited and who has a show opening this Saturday in San Francisco. If you are in the area, check it out.

What is your first memory of being artistic?

It would have to be preschool. We had these big easels and large size brushes. I remember the brushes being hard to hold, the smell of the tempera. Every time I smell tempera paint I think back to my childhood.

Have your parents been supportive of your artistic ventures?

My parents are extremely supportive of my artistic ventures. I feel so fortunate to have parents that not only appreciate art, but are artists themselves. My mother is an incredible singer and an Indian Martha Stuart. I don't know anyone who can cook, entertain and throw a party like my mother! My father is an excellent photographer and more recently an architect, designing his own house, (a contemporary piece of art rather). As a family we traveled all over the world and everywhere we went my parents brought back a piece of art so I learned to appreciate art and craft from a very young age. They encouraged me to be creative and enrolled me in art, music and dance classes. I have been active in the arts ever since.

What do you think about the phenomenon of so many South Asians being a lawyer AND an artist; a doctor AND a musician. Culturally, there are so many explanations for this--did you ever go that route? Do you think it's possible to be successful via such a route?

I think this often happens because of the cultural need for stability in South Asian culture. I personally have never gone this route. In fact you could say that I have always gone in the extreme opposite. I started dancing professionally at the age of 18. From Broadway to small dance companies I have made my living performing, teaching and painting all the while. While I realize that one could deem this insane and extremely unpractical, I have always taken a lot of pride in the fact that I have chose an unconventional route. I would like to be an example and inspiration to other South Asians that it is indeed very possible. It takes copious amounts of dedication, and it sure isn't easy, but it is possible.

I also think it depends on what level of success you hope to achieve as an artist. If it is enough for a lawyer to enjoy stability in their job and practice painting as a hobby or a creative outlet then that's great. I admire people who appreciate and make time for creativity while also working demanding jobs. However, I personally believe it is a full time job to create work that pushes boundaries and challenges the status quo. For me, its a 24 hour/ seven days a week practice in the conceptual and physical act of creating art. I simply don't have time for anything else.

What are your major artistic influences?

Dance and mythology play a huge role in my work. Back in High School I made up this quote that sums up the influences in my life: "Art is music to the eyes, music is dance to the ears, and dance is art to the soul." I think this still rings true. I am a jazz and tap dancer and I work with a lot of musicians. The rhythm and the movement influence the way I compose my artwork. In addition, although I do not actively practice Hinduism, I consider myself to be deeply spiritual. The religion for me is the art practice. It brings me closer to consciousness and has an amazing ability to transcend time. I'll get to my studio and work the whole day without even realizing the hours passed. I love that.

I just finished a book ("Atlas of Unknowns") in which the protagonist often floats above herself as if writing her autobiography, and these words come to mind: "At this moment, I found myself at a crossroads." Do you have any moments like that?

All the time. If you get the chance you should go on the TED website and listen to Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity. She talks exactly about this and brings her own unique perspective. I would describe it, but its best to listen/watch. In fact I'm going to post you the link:

Describe the process of creating one of your pieces.

The process is usually very organic although as of late it is becoming more conceptual. In the beginning of this work I used to do a lot of collage from Indian spiritual posters and coming books. I would just cut and paste and play with the imagery by abstracting it in and around paint. Now I am turning to screen printing as a means to abstract this imagery further, play with scale and create multiples of the same image. Usually though I have an image I want to work with or a piece of fabric or symbol from Indian mythology. From there I create one of those mind maps where I write down related imagery or things that come to mind when I think of this symbol/design/image. The process unfolds from there and I add/subtract content until I feel the piece is complete. Sometimes the ideas are so simple while other times I sit for days/weeks/months on end in an effort to resolve the image I decided to use. Those pieces are usually the monsters from which something new emerges and I become a better artist because of it.

Your new show is called Karma Chromatic: What does it mean?

Well..according to Merriam:

Karma: : the force generated by a person's actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person's next existence

Chromatic: of or relating to color or color phenomena or sensations

Once you see the work I think you'll see how it fits together. I also love the way it floats of my tongue when I say it.

What's the last great book you read? Last great movie you saw? Favorite book of all time? Favorite movie?

Last Great Book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He says it takes 10,000 hours to become a genius of something. I think I plugged 1,000 in the last few months for this show! At least it feels like it. I also just reread "Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. It makes me laugh out loud.

Last Great Movie: Why do I always go blank on this question! Hmm..let's go with the first that come to mind: Amelie/In the Mood for love or any Kieslowski film for the foreign section, Can't Buy Me Love (for the cheesy 80's classic), Vertigo ( your standard classic Hitchcock) and the ending dance sequence in American in Paris (how can you not love Gene Kelly).

What part of India are you from? Do you have family in India? Do you travel back?

My mom's side of the family is from Mumbai and my dad's UP/Delhi. I still have family in both places and love going back. I would like to apply for a grant to go out there and work with local craft artists to collaborate on a large piece. I am currently writing that proposal in my mind.

Word association:

-Masala: yes please.
-Jhumpa Lahiri: Unaccustomed Earth is on my next book list.
-Bollywood: I still can't believe I danced in a fountain 8 days a week in Bombay Dreams...
-Arranged marriage: if it works for you.
-Dada: very important reference. also the name of my Aunt in Florida.
-de Kooning: who were his models??
-McDonalds: There are cow legs and french fries in one of my paintings in the show-tell me if you can spot them!

For more information on Namita, check out her site. And, again, if you are in the Bay Area, visit her show.

shona said...

what awesome work! would love to see more.

K said...

Saw a write up on Sepia, love the interview.

Anonymous said...

LOL re dada

G.L. said...

i'm smitten

rupa said...

always fascinating to read about the creative process: good luck to you!

Sara E said...

Great interview, I live in the Bay, looking forward to checking out your show!

Anonymous said...

cool work

savita said...

Glad you brought back the interviews, Deepa! Good luck to Namita! It's wonderful to see women and especialy South Asian women breaking the mold!

India Arts said...

nice profile, Namita, where can we see more of your work online?

G. Dahm said...

Deepa, do you take suggestions on who to profile in these?

Paula said...

You are so lucky that you have had such supportive parents. I am a visual artist too but it has been a long struggle with them that I have in turn internalized and I think it made me less courageous as an artist.

Namita Kapoor said...

Please check out my website at

there are a lot of new pieces in the show that have not yet been uploaded but will be after Saturdays opening.

Hope to meet you there!

Thank you for you interest and wonderful comments ;)

tejal said...

I love this! Can I buy prints somewhere?

Bahar said...

love the photos of you, do you do photography too? congrats on the show and just checked out your website but didn't notice a store, also am interested in prints?

L.P. said...

Deepa, have you noticed that all the women you profile are super attractive??? Is this on purpose?

Leena said...

Curious about what your advice would be to artists in this current economy. Let me clarify: Struggling artists. It seems like you are achieving success but how has the economy affected you and what do you think about people getting into artistic endeavors now? Do you have children? Would you advise them of the same path you have taken? Very curious!

Namita Kapoor said...

All these comments are great, thanks for posting everyone! I will tackle them in order here:

1.Special Edition original monoprints are available during the show. After that, I will be posting regular prints on the website available for purchase directly on the site.

2.thanks for the interest in the photos! I have a wonderful boyfriend who also happens to be an insane editorial photographer. Thanks to him I get great press photos! check out his work at

3.Struggling Economy:
People seek inspiration during hard times. The artists role is to not give up, but to use the downfall as a vehicle to explore creativity and make room for new ideas. Why do we make art and what it is worth during economic fluctuation? The old models are no longer working for us and I think during this time it is important for artists to take risks, not give up, and seek alternative ways of getting their work out in the community and speak their voice. These are the voices that sustain us during hard times.

The lessons I have learned are to never give up! There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks you all for your wonderful comments.

Anonymous said...

where is brown girls?????

Buy Kamagra said...

I was seeing the Namita Kapoor's photo, she's beautiful, I've never seen a woman like this, I hope some day get married with this girl I'm gonna look for her in every place I go.

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