I always wanted to be an artist, I thought to myself as I drew a three-eyed goat climbing an abstract mountain of elongated leaves.
I’m at the FIU Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, which is hosting a drawing salon inspired by “Many Visions, Many Versions: Art from Indigenous Communities in India”, one of their current exhibitions on view.
This calming event invites visitors to exercise the artistic part of their brains. Each monthly session is lead by an artist, museum educators or university faculty member and is held alongside an exhibition. The drawing salons are free and open to the community.
My youth was spent doodling, coloring, fingerpainting and collecting an endless assortment of glitter pens. In the hierarchy of honorable professions, the artist was always above all the rest to me. But beyond sparkling butterflies and the many homemade cards I made for parents, there was not much more to my talent.
Still, art is for everyone, both those whose works captivate the world and those of us who simply want to craft something for our loved ones on a special day. I still love to paint at home when I need to de-stress and leave my mind for a much-needed vacation, but sometimes there’s just no time for it.
“Many Visions, Many Versions” highlights the art from indigenous communities in India, such as the Gond and the Warli. Their mythical portrayals of animal life and symbolic imagery urge the grandest of questions.
“This exhibition is a celebration of life,” said Emily Afre, education specialist at the Frost as she guided us through these intricate paintings.
The other guests and I, who ranged in age and artistic ability, were all instructed to take inspiration in the exhibition’s overlapping themes of spirituality and creation and sketch an anthropomorphic animal similar to those hanging in front of us.
And so, we each took hold of a stool and our drawing materials, which were provided to us by the museum staff. We gravitated toward whichever work of art called out to us and let our hands get to work.
A small group of children also sat quietly in concentration, staring at the art. I couldn’t help but picture myself doing the same a couple of years back had I come here at that age.
Creatures of wonder
I was intrigued by a collection of four drawings called “Fantastical Animals.” One of them showed a multi-headed sheep, another one featured a flamboyant owl with a leaf-shaped body.
Traditional Indian music bounced off the museum’s tall white walls as we all focused on our drawings. I peeked to my sides and saw others sketching majestic trees, frogs, snakes and birds.
“People of all artistic backgrounds can come and hang out in a relaxing environment,” said Miriam Machado, chief curator of education at the Frost. “It’s great because students with free time in between classes can come in and enjoy it. Art students can even add the drawings to their portfolios.”
Adding some final touches to my drawing, I instinctively grazed the white graphite pencil against the black construction paper, building up a giant poofy cloud to crown over a tree that looked more like a broccoli stem. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
I leaned back and had a look at my finished creation.
Huh, not so bad, I thought.
Many Visions, Many Versions: Art from Indigenous Communities in India will be on view until Sept. 9.
Patricia Cárdenas is an editorial intern at FlU News.