Exhibiting painter presents workshop, film

India native visiting Cal Lutheran for March events

Siona Benjamin's influences range from ancient Indian and Persian miniatures to Sephardic icons and contemporary graphic novels.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Feb. 13, 2018) An artist who was raised Jewish in predominantly Hindu and Muslim India and educated in Catholic and Zoroastrian schools will share her art, lead a painting workshop and show a documentary on her life at California Lutheran University.

“Siona Benjamin: Blue Like Me” will be on exhibit from Feb. 15 through April 12 in the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art on the university’s Thousand Oaks campus.

Benjamin will show “Blue Like Me: The Art of Siona Benjamin,” a 30-minute documentary about her and India’s Bene Israel community, at 6 p.m. March 20 in Lundring Events Center. The film directed by Hal Rifken includes interviews about the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and their effect on the community. Benjamin will give a talk after the screening.

On March 22, Benjamin will lead a painting workshop called “Finding Home” from 2:15 to 4 p.m. in William Rolland Art Center 103. She will help participants create art that speaks to the stories in their lives. Visitors are encouraged to bring photocopies of documents and other items related to their families, cultures and religions, and to be open to inspiration from sources including ancient stories.

Benjamin, who now lives in New Jersey, works in a visual language that conveys her transcultural, transnational view of the world. Her art amalgamates styles, religions, languages, mythologies and iconographies. Her influences range from ancient Indian and Persian miniatures to Sephardic icons and contemporary graphic novels. She seeks to provoke reevaluation of misconceptions about identity and race that can lead to racism, hatred and war. A section of the exhibit on migration features portraits of Syrian refugees with motifs of paradise in the background.

“She can take something very human like loneliness, fear, vengeance, excitement or love and translate it with motifs influenced by Persian, Indian, Muslim, Jewish and even contemporary American art,” said Rolland Gallery curator Rachel T. Schmid. “Everything feels familiar because if you’re able to recognize even just one aspect of the piece, like the American flag, you feel a sense of home, despite not understanding the writing. In polemic times, it is nice to be reminded of shared aspects of humanity.”  

Benjamin has received a Fulbright Fellowship and her work has been featured in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Art in America.

Admission to the exhibit and events is free. For the talk and workshop, RSVP by March 1 to rollandgallery@callutheran.edu. The gallery, located in William Rolland Stadium, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For more information, contact Schmid at 805-493-3697 or rollandgallery@callutheran.edu or visit CalLutheran.edu/rolland