Spandita Malik’s Embroidered Photographs Turn Away From the Colonized Eye
Brooklyn-based artist Spandita Malik combines photographic portraits with embroidered details made by women in India who’ve suffered from domestic abuse. Her mixed-media images of female subjects in enclosed spaces speak out against gender-based violence. Spandita’s goal is to “decolonize the eye and aesthetic surrounding the documentary photography of India,” and spotlight misogynistic practices at home and abroad.
Spandita earned an MFA from the Parsons School of Design and has received numerous creative awards. Her photographic embroideries have been featured in Harper’s, Musée Magazine, and Elephant, and exhibited in China, France, Germany, India, Italy, and New Zealand, as well as in the US. Spandita was included on the list of “2020 Ones to Watch” by the British Journal of Photography. She has participated in artist residencies in Arles, France and Woodstock, NY.
Spandita’s unique method of combining photographs with textiles stems from visiting women’s self-help groups in Lucknow, Jaipur, and Chamkaur Sahib. While interviewing and photographing women who were learning to embroider, she discovered many of them had experienced domestic violence or found it difficult to leave their homes. As she photographed them in restrictive domestic environments and invited them to collaborate on her creative projects, she hoped to give her subjects a voice.
“I printed the portrait I took onto the fabric of the region and asked [the women] to embroider the portrait in a way that seemed fit to them, without any guidelines, giving them the agency to have authority over their own portrayal,” Spandita tells NOT REAL ART. “These artistic collaborations subvert the idea of the artist as the main producer by giving each woman her own creative entity within her own craft. It also engages the problem of representation in portrait photography as addressed by giving women control over their own image.”
Spandita considers it a privilege to be the bearer of their stories and given the responsibility to pass them on. While in India, she also taught photography to village children using disposable cameras. As an artist, she is committed to working “with and for women, and pushing the boundaries around women’s work in fine art.”
“These artistic collaborations subvert the idea of the artist as the main producer by giving each woman her own creative entity within her own craft.” — Spandita Malik
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
Our Artist of the Day series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100s of grant applications we receive. The NOT REAL ART grant is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists. Find out more about our grant program here.