Thursday, May 4, 2017

"I use symbols, rituals, and traditional expression as a means to discover, interpret and balance the culture and philosophy of my home country, India, with the here and now of my life in the U.S... I believe that combining the material and spiritual of in ritual expression is a way to discover and interpret the meaning of life. Ritual can transform meaning or objects and make them function physically as well as spiritually. Thus I believe that when common found objects are re-introduced into society, and presented in a ritualistic format, they acquire a renewed energy and the idea of sacredness of everyday life is confirmed" - Indira Freitas Johnson

Indira Freitas Johnson is a self-taught artist and an educator on nonviolence. Coincidentally, both of her occupations intersect beautifully, both acting as sources for inspiration and social reforms. "Much of my inspiration comes from transitory, ritualistic Indian folk art practices," she writes, "which I've used to address issues of labor, domestic violence, nonviolence and health education, adapting them to operate within contemporary experiences thus evolving a hybrid version of the original traditions. As a result, my work has always been informed by my experience of life in both, the US and India."

Indira's artwork falls under a "call and response tradition" that is frequently practiced in many cultures. Many of her pieces rely on responses from each community she visits, allowing their feedback to help finalize the results; in a way, her work is a hybrid, whose construction and completion relies on community interaction.

*Death and Rebirth (2003), linoleum black print
*Title Unknown (????), drawing 
*Virtue and Vice I (2003), hand embroidered organza
Throughout her career, Johnson's work is represented in an assortment of major private and public collections across the world including: Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, Asian American Arts Centre (us!), Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Mobile Museum of Art (in Mobile Alabama), State of Illinois Building (in Chicago), Ankor Consultants (in Brussels), High Museum of Art (in Atlanta), Arkansas Arts Center and Decorative Arts Museum, University of Illinois Law School, Kohler Company (in Sheboygan, Wisconsin), High Museum of Art (in Atlanta, Georgia), SHARE, Air India Corporation, and Garden/Varelli -- the last three institutions are located in Mumbai, India.

Indira is also the founder of the Shanti Foundation for Peace, located in Illinois. The Foundation is a non-profit organization that "helps children realize their creative potential, equips teachers with new teaching tools, helps participants develop lifelong nonviolence decision-making and nonviolence skills, and enables schools and community organizations to advance their goals." In 2011, Shanti Foundation merged with Changing Worlds -- their missions is to "foster peace, acceptance, and understanding in the everyday interactions of people, by bringing visual, literary, and performing arts programs to schools and communities. Today, Shanti Foundation programs are now offered under the Changing Worlds' "umbrella." Here are examples of one of Shanti's art projects: greeting cards:

Shanti's Line Greeting Cards
Photograph Belongs to Changing Worlds
"Shanti’s line of greeting cards combine graphics designed by Johnson with distinctive quotes that challenge and inspire the reader. The quotes on all of our products are chosen to represent a variety of cultures, famous leaders, students, and unknown visionaries.  This diversity demonstrates the beauty of our differences and the similarities of our hopes and dreams" - Changing Worlds.

Recently, Johnson gave a magnificent TED Talk, at the University of Columbia College Chicago, on April 1st. There, she explains the significance a single individual can have on the entire world. To hear her talk, please feel free to visit the link:
** She begins to speak at 6:12:00

For more information about Indira Freitas Johnson:
For more information about Shanti Foundation for Peace
For more information about Changing Worlds:
To view her TEDxColumbia College Chicago talk:
** She begins to speak at 6:12:00

*All Images Are Featured in the Online Data Base:
Different Themes
Written by Lovely

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