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Artist Suchitra Mattai poses with her work

My practice is really designed to give voice to people who were not written into history.

Artist Suchitra Mattai, in a video interview by K Contemporary Gallery in Denver, February 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of K Contemporary.)
Suchitra Mattai, the light we know and the dark we keep (detail), 2022
Suchitra Mattai, the light we know and the dark we keep (detail), 2022. Vintage saris, fabric and tassels; 122 × 115 inches (309.88 × 292.1 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Museum purchase with additional funds provided by Jennifer McCracken New (A.B.’90, J.D.’94) and Jason G. New (J.D.’94), Stefanie (P’11, P’13, P’20) and Douglas Kahn (P’11, P’13, P’20) and The Duke Endowment, 2023.7.1. © Suchitra Mattai. Courtesy of the artist and Kavi Gupta, Chicago. Photo by Brian Quinby.

The Nasher Museum has acquired a mixed-media work by Guyanese artist Suchitra Mattai.

Mattai draws heavily on her Indo-Caribbean cultural and geographical heritage and the complex legacy that accompanies it. She blends painting, sculpture and textiles with methods suggestive of domestic labor that she learned from her grandmother: sewing, embroidery and crocheting. Her weavings and installations address colonialism, transculturalism and the complexity of gender roles.

Incorporating vintage saris, dupatta (long shawl-like scarves) and other textiles that she sometimes inherits from her family, Mattai weaves sheer materials into tales of ocean migration, transnationalism, and the exchange of culture. She has an interest in salt and saltwater and their accompanying complex social and political associations—as in the case of the light we know and the dark we keep.

Mattai frequently uses materials in her weavings that have their own embedded meanings, such as the vintage saris in the light we know and the dark we keep. This creates a call and response between the materials, the topics addressed in the work and processes involved in the work’s creation.

The work, the light we know and the dark we keep, is assembled from a mixture of found tassels, fabrics and vintage saris. This work is meant to depict three girls in water, according to Mattai. They look back with longing to a home they have forgotten.

This work is part of the exhibition Love & Anarchy, on view June 22, 2023, through February 18, 2024.

The gallery below showcases several works from the collection that explore similar themes to Mattai’s work and a detail of the light we know and the dark we keep.

My goal is to create work that speaks to contemporary political social issues but to offer an optimistic view.

Artist Suchitra Mattai, in a video made by Hollis Taggart Contemporary Gallery in New York, March 31, 2020
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