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“…Those lines even in minds I see
In this land of the brave
And home of the free…” – Rochana Dubey

Artist Rochana Dubey thinks that the era of the global citizen is fast disappearing into the quicksands of time: “Letters, memories, photographs, conversations and aspirations live on in hearts as they leave homes behind. But achievements, goals and identity now face new questions, challenges. A relentless desire for life – like untethered paper boats adrift in open waters, afloat only on hope and determination. Where do they belong?”

Rochana Dubey was born and grew up in Kolkata, India.  She studied fashion design at the FIT(NY) affiliated National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, India. Prior to that she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Jadavpur University. So you could guess that Rochana, who became a finalist at our juried show, “Transformation”, is not only a visual artist. She’s also a poet.

In her mixed media artworks Rochana combines painting and literature. Her canvas is worth viewing and reading.

Enjoy the poem “Imaginary Lines” by Rochana Dubey.

What are those, Ma,
Those lines across the land?
Who made them
And were they drawn by hand?
Can they be erased, then
If I rubbed them with my feet
And will you lose me
If I stepped over, just to breathe?
To explore the world, to see?
But they’re all over, Ma
Over land and water
Mountains and hills
Cutting across deserts,
Dividing seas.
Can nature be divided so?
Those lines even in minds I see
In this land of the brave
And home of the free…
What are they afraid of, me?
Is this what they will leave behind?
Lines, imaginary lines.

What are those for, anyway?
What do they do
Who do they protect
Us or them
Or someone else…
Do they protect,
And provide
For the ones that need
What humans need
Food, water, shelter…
From the storms in the skies
And in hearts and evil eyes,
Greed and lust.
But don’t they know?
To dust shall dust
Those imaginary lines.

Let’s obfuscate those lines, Ma,
That divide,
So no one could find them.
Or themselves.
What fun it will be!
A confusion of eyes, skin, hair
All kinds, colors,
From god knows where.
What do we have?
Two eyes, one nose
Ten each of fingers and toes
Ears and mouth,
Of varied design
A tongue that sounds,
Just not like mine.
Aren’t they like us
Don’t they breathe, smell,
Love, like us?
Don’t they have veins filled with blood?
You say ‘hate’?
No! Wait!
Slice and see
Them and me…
With pounding hearts
In the same place as ours.
Filled with love and passion
Can’t we show some compassion?
Does it matter where we’re from,
Where we’ve been…
Only who we become,
Our hopes and dreams.
Every day we breathe in unison
Ashes will be ashes
And to dust shall dust return
Each one
Sparing none.
We become One.
So why do we create, Ma,
Those Imaginary Lines.

Juried exhibition “Transformation” where Rochana Dubey became a finalist is on view through October 26, 2017 at Gallery MC (545 West 52 Street, New York). Curated by RE:ARTISTE. 

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April 2016

By Raj S. Rangarajan

If it’s March, it’s Spring and start of the art season. For the basketball fan, it is March Madness. Among the annual art events are shows from IAAC – the New York-based premier South Asian institution for art, films, theater, dance, et al. – Indo American Arts Council. For the first time, IAAC decided to cross the Lincoln Tunnel and move west to Bedminster, New Jersey – a shot in the arm for Garden State’s collectors and art aficionados. Titled Erasing Borders 2016 Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora, 24 artists of South Asian origin from North America have displayed their artworks and the inaugural on March 17 comprised established artists and wannabes from far-flung states such as California and Maryland.

South Asian Outlook caught up with two of the artists who have their works on display – Norbert Gonsalves and Rochana Dubey. An art director from New York city, Norbert calls his piece Despite and Hope 1, an encaustic on wood panel with feminine symbols such as charred sari fabric and broken glass bangles. The artist terms them “Dowry Deaths which are well-documented in India, when a young bride is doused with kerosene and her saree set aflame, and occasionally killed in a futile attempt to extract additional dowry money from the bride’s family.” 

Norbert adds, “I literally scorch and burn traditional sarees, bangles and chains to fashion misshapen forms that allude to the legacy of these victims of male patriarchal violence.” 

A Graphic Design student at the J.J. Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai, India, Norbert has been making art since a very young age under the influence of his late artist father, J.W. Gonsalves. Having moved to North America at age 29, with stints in Toronto, Canada, Norbert now operates out of this studio near New York city. His vivid, large-scale, mixed media works on canvas are still very much anchored to his Indian homeland as evidenced in the piece on display. He is also into sculpting, and his work offers a conflation of painting and drawing, realism and abstraction, with found objects such as fabric incorporated for texture and density.

For Calcutta-born artist Rochana Dubey introspection and looking inward seem to work. She expands, “If I was good with words, I’d write a book. So I paint to tell my story. Conveying thousands of ideas, theories or simply a moment of intense feeling is what I do with my art. Love, passion, fear, insecurity – and now with age – spirituality, have all found expressions in my work."

n her four-feet square acrylic on canvas - Is it really You or is it Me? - seen here, she has used multiple abstract layers to weave this thought together. "I have used symbolism of the lotus bud and its reflection, the silhouette in the background and the extended seeking hand, around the central face." Vision, the recurring motif in her paintings, depicts self-realization and the knowledge of its power.

"With my new series, Discoveries, the attention turns inwards to reflect on one's state of mind in different life-scenarios. Humanity at large needs to rethink and recalibrate. Instead of pointing fingers at each other and our religion, faiths and practices, we need to reconsider what it means to simply be alive. Live and let live. Isn't the next person as human as oneself? Isn't the color of his blood the same as mine? Isn't his heart bleeding for the loss of a loved one - the same way mine is? Isn't our God the same - the ONE in whose image we have been created? So we believe...and so we must act. 

”Adds Rochana, “My experiments have been explorations of my abilities and attempts at understanding nuances of the rapidly changing social landscape around me. My training allows me the flexibility of expressing myself in various media.” 
In philosophical strain, the artist extrapolates: There is so much violence all over the world today. To seek solace or direction, we pray to our respective gods or higher power or guide – that constant presence that seems to calm our minds and make sense of it all.

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September 21-30, 2017

My art fast challenge pushed me literally over the edge of my canvas, onto various new materials. I left my canvas, my paints and my painting tools to reconnect with long forgotten skills in stitching and explore new ones. Loosely woven textiles, sacred thread ‘mauli’ or ‘kalava’, paper, recycled furniture parts - all took on new meaning. Pushing me deeper into the mind and heart of the immigrant condition, a subject I have been preoccupied with, in my recent work. The art fast has led me into a new dimension of creativity, a continuing body of work. For this, I am grateful to Art Fast. Thank you!

A few lines and pictures that I would like to share here…
Who is the alien? The Stranger among Us?
Who is stranger? Me or you?
Every line? An immigrant from its starting point…
Every tree? an immigrant sprout, spreading its arms into the open sky
Every river? An immigrant abandoning her icy home for the comforting embrace of the sea…
Every follower? An immigrant heart in search of the Divine…
Every soul? An immigrant as it traverses through the vagaries of time…
An immigrant, 
I am,
I create,
the social fabric, 
I am one
I am all.
-Rochana Dubey

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