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Aug 13 - Dec 1: Mithila Medley Exhibition



"Mithila Medley: Contemporary Arts from an Ancient Culture in North India" will be on display in our Hayloft Gallery, featuring works all from the Mithila region of India. These works are primarily made by women artists and include "religious and mythological imagery to depict contemporary and topical subjects ranging from environmental and social justice concerns to feminist and political issues, as well as crises such as earthquakes and the impact of Covid" as said by co-curator, Professor Kathryn Myers of the University of Connecticut.

"Mithila Medley" will be on display from August 13th to December 1st. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, August 13 at 5pm. This event is free and open to the public.

This exhibition is in conjunction with shows set to be on display at Radford University's Tyler and Covington Galleries, as well as Miller-off-Main Street Gallery in Blacksburg.

An international symposium will take place, in part at FCA, on Thursday, October 13, beginning at 9:30am. This symposium will be available globally via Zoom and will feature the number of scholars involved in the curation and study of this art, as well as a few of the artists themselves.


More About Mithila


Since at least the fourteenth century, rural women in north India’s Mithila region, in the state of Bihar, have painted lavish murals in their private homes. These included images of gods and goddesses, protective icons, and paintings used in marriage rituals. However, their practice was not known outside of Mithila until a young British official inspecting damage after a 1934 earthquake found fragments of beautifully painted walls. In this region, blessed with great natural resources but prone to natural disasters, poor infrastructure, and poverty, relief efforts included bringing paper to the villages so women could create paintings for export beyond their local communities. The first women artists to work on paper belonged to “upper caste” Brahmin and Kayastha communities. Before long, women in Dalit communities (formerly known as “untouchables") followed suit.

Initially, each artist worked in a distinct style associated with their community. Brahmin artists worked in the bharni (filled) style, typified by a vigorous painterly approach with broad shapes of color often outlined in ink. As Kayastha women are from a caste of scribes and accountants, their kachni (linear) style, usually rendered in black and red ink, reflects their husbands’ occupation. Somewhat later, Dalit artists in neighboring communities created a visual language of their own, elaborating on the traditional godana (tattoo) patterns that embellish their bodies to develop a unique visual language of abstract and figurative forms.

As evidenced by work in this exhibition, stylistic distinctions once based on caste and community have become more fluid, and a small but growing number of male artists also create Mithila art. All the artists—female and male—work in a range of styles, responding to the demands of the market, a collective sense of artistic heritage, and natural artistic curiosity. Other recent changes include expanding the range of subject matter beyond traditional religious and mythological imagery to depict contemporary and topical subjects ranging from environmental and social justice concerns to feminist and political issues, as well as crises such as earthquakes and the impact of Covid. Mithila artists are exceptional for their remarkable artistic range and astonishing virtuosity while working within established stylistic parameters.

- Kathryn Myers

Professor of Art, University of Connecticut

“Mithila Medley” Exhibition Co-Curator


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