ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born and brought up in India, Sreedhari Desai is a gifted artist. Very early on, her parents discovered that she could lose herself for hours poring over the renderings in Soviet-era children's books and the Amar Chitra Katha magazines that they owned. Sreedhari covered her parents' apartment in Baroda, now Vadodara, with drawings of things both real and imagined.
Due to financial limitations, her parents were only able to afford some crayons and poster colors for her to use on school assignments. It was a blessing in disguise because it forced Sreedhari to explore alternate materials to ingeniously express herself. She remembers making numerous ink drawings on newspapers and leftover plywood from watercooler installations. Even though her early attempts were nothing to be proud of, her devoted father, Mr. D. S. Hari Hara Nath Desai, saved them carefully.
When she was 14, her family relocated to Chandigarh, and at her new school, her art teacher, Mrs. Ruby Singh, entered one of her class assignments, a portrait of an old man with gnarled fingers, in a state-level competition. Sreedhari won first place, and the prize was a box of oil paint colors. They say that the medium chooses the artist, and for Sreedhari, there was no turning back once the choice was made! She went on to win art competitions sponsored by the Camlin Art Center, Shankar's Academy of Art, and the T. S. Central State Library of Chandigarh for her landscapes, portraits, and caricatures. However, once the box of oil paints was spent, she had to wait several years before she could continue her tryst with oil painting.
As life would have it, Sreedhari eventually found her way to the U.S. and underwent formal training in the fine arts at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, she learned her most valuable art lessons during her travels in Europe between the years 2002 and 2008 where she was exposed to the work of Dutch, Italian, French, and Spanish masters. By seeing it up close, she later benefited from the fine brushwork of Russian masters and the lovely artwork in the form of bas-reliefs, friezes, marble and bronze statues, stained-glass windows, and countless mosaics in the Soviet-era metro stations.
She modeled for Rob McKay, Steve Smock, Craig Glidden, Allen Bishop, and Rick Graham in her youthful days. “Sitting still for hours as a model was perhaps the hardest job I have ever done, but the money I made from it allowed me to buy art supplies.... By looking at the artwork produced by the artists I was modeling for, I obtained a deep appreciation of how one ought to paint a nude form without objectifying the individual,” she says. Though she no longer models for others, she feels gratitude for her past experiences. “Modeling for Rob and others taught me unique, different ways of capturing light and shade. Those were invaluable 'free' lessons.”
Her current work is influenced by her friends and fellow artists, Christian Arnould, Vitaly Makarov, and Brocha Teichman.
She pauses when asked if there is anything she regrets in her artistic career. “Yes, in fact, there is. When I was pursuing engineering in college, some of my male batchmates put out a salacious journal objectifying some female students. In an institution where there were only 3% women, this stung hard. So, when a few of my female batchmates approached me to make caricatures of the editorial board members of the journal, I complied. Those were mean-spirited illustrations, and I deeply regret hurting the sentiments of some of the male board members who had tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent the inappropriate content from being published. I decided afterward that I would never again create any artwork that intentionally seeks to hurt others.”
Sreedhari's art has been featured on the covers of journals and books for over a decade. She has exhibited her work in solo art shows in Salt Lake City, Utah and Durham, North Carolina. Additionally, she maintains a studio space in Chapel Hill. Though she enjoys working in plein air, her alternate career as a professor and executive coach mandates that she often complete her paintings in the studio.
Given how integral and interwoven both oil painting and poetry writing have been to her creative odyssey, she intertwines them seamlessly in her self-expression. You can enjoy her productions under the Videos tab.
Solo Show: Salt Lake City Public Gallery
Solo Show: Saladelia Cafe at University Drive, Durham
Solo Show: Madhatter's Cafe
Solo Show: Saladelia Cafe at Hock Plaza, Durham
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