The galleries of the SCAD Museum of Art came alive Thursday evening with several gallery talks featuring the museum’s current exhibition artists.  The event coincided with the celebration of SCAD MOA’s 5 year anniversary and included a lecture from acclaimed Indian contemporary artist Subodh Gupta. Gupta discussed his conceptual self portrait following a series of gallery talks with exhibition artists Michael Joo, Jose Dávila and Radcliffe Bailey.       

Gupta’s exhibition in the Pamela Elaine Poetter Gallery, “Guests, Strangers and Interlopers,” utilizes large vessels to explore deeper motifs of mobility and spirituality.  One piece, “Terminal,” consists of multiple 1- to 15-foot-tall towers suspended with thread.  Another series, “From the earth, but not of it,” incorporates found, everyday objects.   

Gupta was born in Khagaul, India in 1964.  He studied at the College of Arts and Crafts, Patna from 1983 to 1988 before moving to New Delhi, where he currently lives and works.  Gupta was originally trained as a painter, but he went on to experiment with a variety of media and artistic mediums.  

According to Storm Janse van Rensburg, head museum curator of exhibitions, a majority of Gupta’s recent work includes sculpture, and he’s best known for combining everyday objects that are ubiquitous throughout India.  From such ordinary items, Gupta produces sculptures that reflect the economic transformation of his homeland, Rensburg said.  Gupta has an established career in the international art world, has presented several exhibitions globally, and his exhibition at SCAD MOA is the first museum exhibition in the United States.

Gupta began his lecture by telling “his story” of how he became an artist and developed his career.

“I grew up in a very small town where the railway,” Gupta said.  “My father was in railway, my one brother is still in the railway, and my brother-in-law is in the railway too.  Basically I’m the railway boy.  And nobody was from the art background.  I don’t remember doing anything in art too, so it was quite a miracle how I ended up in this world.”  

Gupta said his mother often took him to a small theater close to his home.  According to Gupta, this had an impact on his future visually artistic hobbies in college and his career.  

“When I [graduated] from the school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Gupta said.  “Nobody told me to go to art school.”  

Prior to enrolling in the College of Arts and Crafts, Gupta attended a “normal” college near his hometown.  While there, he joined a small, local theater troupe.    

“Theater became part of my life, and I started making theater posters,” Gupta explained.  “While I was making posters, someone asked me, ‘Why don’t you go to art school?’”  

Gupta applied to the College of Arts and Crafts shortly after that conversation.  Though his application was initially rejected, he was admitted and enrolled the next year.   

“Everything started from there,” Gupta said.  “When I was in art school… nobody told us what to make.  Then I tried to experiment from various materials too.  I love using the material of whatever I get, and it’s still a habit.”  

Gupta’s work is heavily influenced by the cultural and living conditions seen throughout India’s 29 states.  His state, Bihar, is among the most impoverished in India.  Gupta said his artwork addresses how the mannerisms of Indian life are evolving.  He also draws artistic inspiration from one of his favorite hobbies, cooking.    

“Cooking something becomes a ritual for me,” Gupta said.  “India kitchen is almost like Indian temples, especially in the middle class families.  The houses in India are changing.  I’m talking about how everything’s changing in my country.”