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by Melanie Weiss

Diversity in Paint and in Life

If any artist can embody the essence of a globalized world, it is surely Siona Benjamin, originally from the Bene Israel community of Mumbai (Bombay), whose work was included in a show July 2008 at Manhattan’s A.I.R. gallery.

Having grown up in a Hindu and Muslim society, and educated at Catholic and Zoroastrian schools, Benjamin is committed to her Jewish heritage. Living in America since graduate school, Benjamin has built her career around an artistic style that celebrates this diversity. Her paintings, rich in color and depth, are influenced by everything from Byzantine icons and medieval manuscripts to Indian miniatures and Sephardic imagery, brought vividly to life by gouache paint and gold leaf. Many languages, Jewish and Indian symbols, and the occasional jarring—but effective—reference to contemporary American culture make this a canon of work that embraces a harmonic multiculturalism. The series “Finding Home” features many lovely reinterpretations of female biblical characters, including several renditions of Lilith (see above for one example).

Says the artist, “I would like my audience to reevaluate their notions and concepts about identity and race, thus understanding that such misconceptions could lead to racism, hate and war.” A new show, “Lilith in the New World,” opens soon in NYC.