Saumitra Chandratreya, one of the new artists who will be joining studio residents in the ArtsXchange this month, will bring a new medium to the artist collective. Saumitra is a fiber-installation artist who uses found objects, often deriving images from mainstream media or public sources, to create textiles, abstract prints and woven pieces for his contemporary works of art. With pop culture and social commentary playing an important role in his art, every piece of art has experiential elements that have brought him widespread recognition. Though he is a new resident, frequent ArtsXchange visitors will recall his exhibit last year titled "Everyday Obvious."
Saumitra was born in Mumbai, lives in both St. Petersburg and Chicago, and considers Bangalore, India, a third home. He graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago with a Master of Design in Fashion, Body, and Garment. He also has a BFA in Textile Design from the Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore, India.
He was awarded one of the Individual Artist Grants from St. Petersburg Arts Alliance in 2020, Emerging Artist Grants from Creative Pinellas in 2018 and he was one of the emerging artists at the 2019 Gasparilla Festival of Arts in Tampa, FL. Saumitra was one of the selected artists for Inaugural Qinfolk Festival in Ithaca, NY. He was one of the Finalists who exhibited at the Union League Club of Chicago for Luminarts Cultural Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship Show. Saumitra was awarded the Shapiro Graduate research fellowship at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was nominated by his department for the James Nelson Raymond Fellowship while studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His works have been collected nationally and internationally and his art has been written about extensively in the local media.
We asked Saumitra a few questions about his art and inspiration:
How long have you been a full-time artist?
I have been practicing art professionally for about 12 years now. It has shifted in terms of how much of my time I’d dedicated to it because of both undergraduate and graduate schools but I am always working on something creative. I am a maker.
What is your medium and how did you arrive at it?
I use textiles as my primary medium but I have also started using readymade objects in my art. I enrolled in my undergraduate art school to become a product designer. As good art school foundation programs go, the education allowed me to question everything I was doing, I believed in and I was becoming confidant about my sexuality. I saw the work that textile design students were producing at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology and I fell in love with the medium. I love the versatility, the inherent grace and dynamism of textiles. I felt like the possibilities are endless with textiles. So I decided to choose that as my specialization. From there on, I worked as a design intern at a natural dyeing and Shibori studio and then as a junior designer at a high end embroidery studio, before studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There, my principle advisor, Nick Cave, challenged me to step away from textiles for a while and that’s how I discovered ready-made objects. I started using them through weekly design projects and I really enjoy working with the history and meaning they bring to my arts practice.
What inspires your art?
I am inspired by day-to-day nuances of my identity, as a queer, non-binary, immigrant person of color and what it means to affirm these identities now, when we have been othered. What does it mean to be an artist with a voice? I am inspired by pop culture, LGBTQIA+ culture, fashion and day-to-day activism.
Why did you join the ArtsXchange and how do you feel that will inform or influence your work?
I have always thrived in a communal studio settings. I believe in the value other artists can add to my work through critiques and discussions. Through the 2nd Saturday Art-Walks and other community events I have been familiar with a lot of artists in the group. So when I was given the opportunity to be a part of the studio environment I was delighted. Having a professional studio will also help in adding more discipline to my practice and I am looking forward to that. Having a studio separate from home will also help me be more prolific in my arts practice.
Do you have any upcoming events?
I have a collaborative art show opening on August 17th at the Gallery 221, located at Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus in Tampa. The title of the show is ‘Secret Language of Intimacy’. I collaborated with poet Kevin Mooney who lives in Venice, FL. I also have an art piece in the current Mize Gallery show, Sounds Good. To know more details about the show, please follow me on Instagram and Facebook.