You’ve arrived at galleries 1 and 2, art from the Indian subcontinent. Take a minute. Look around you. You may notice a big emphasis on bodies in here. With Indian art, as with many other styles of art throughout history, the human body provides clues about what a culture finds beautiful, important, powerful, and valuable.
Keep an eye on the shape of the bodies on display. Are they skinny or curvy? Are they at ease or are they tense? Also keep an eye on the gestures, poses, and adornments. The ways that bodies are decorated can tell stories, too.
With all these examinations of the ways that bodies are represented in art from the Indian subcontinent, make sure to leave some room to think about the ways that bodies are presented right here. What decorations are on your body? Are you wearing jewelry? Makeup? A watch? A phone?
What styles are popular in your community right now? How do people carry themselves when they walk through the hallways or as they wait for a taxi on the street?
Today new technologies are shifting the boundaries of our bodies. Advancements in prosthetics, pacemakers, glasses, and smartphones all shape the human body inside and out and its capacity for expression. It is getting harder to define where our physical bodies end and where machines begin.
Just as the ideals of what was “beautiful” were always changing across the Indian subcontinent, so it is with us today. Bodies and identities continue to be curated, like works of art.