Divya Mehra: From India to Canada and Back to India (There is nothing I can possess which you cannot take away)

7 August 2020 – 2 January 2021

About the Exhibition

Curated By

John G. Hampton

Organized By

The MacKenzie Art Gallery

Galleries

Kenderdine Gallery

From India to Canada and Back to India (There is nothing I can possess which you can not take away) features new and recent work by Divya Mehra that unravels the West’s obsession with simultaneously defining and consuming the histories and identities of other cultures. In this collection of reproduced, misclassified, staged, and stolen cultural property, Mehra deftly and playfully navigates complex networks of colonial entitlement, popular culture, art history, sacred objects, exotic adventurism, and novelty. Her work both entices and withholds, requiring the viewer to confront their own complicated relationships to the subject matter while also directly implicating the MacKenzie itself in the fraught colonial underpinnings of ownership and display in institutional collections. 

Explore the work of Divya Mehra on CBC’s In the Making! Stream the episode now.

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About the Artist

Known for her meticulous attention to the interaction of form, medium and site, Divya Mehra’s work deals with her diasporic experiences and historical narratives. She incorporates found artifacts and readymade objects as active signifiers of resistance or as reminders of the difficult realities of displacement, loss, neutrality and oppression. Mehra works in a multitude of forms, including sculpture, print, drawing, artist books, installation, advertising, performance, video and film. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and is represented by Georgia Scherman Projects.

Commentary

“Recognizing that the clearly female stone figure was not Vishnu, I reached out to Dr. Siddhartha V. Shah, curator of South Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum, who revealed that the deity depicted was in fact Annapoorna, also known as the Queen of Benares.”

Interview with Divya Mehra

Hyperallergic

“As we’re having conversations about repatriation, it’s a good time for institutions to acquire new works to replace items that are leaving their collections,” Mehra said. “And, if you have gaps, why not commission BIPOC artists to fill them?”

Interview with Divya Mehra

Artnet News

“We're a cultural institution and we want to represent those cultures accurately and ethically, and we have to make sure that we have buy-in from the people who produce this work and where it comes from.”

Interview with John Hampton

CBC News

“While working on her latest exhibit at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Divya Mehra discovered that a small stone statue was stolen in 1913 by the gallery's namesake, Norman MacKenzie.”

Interview with John Hampton

CTV News

“Every Indian will be proud to know that a very old idol of Devi Annapoorna is returning to India from Canada.”

Times of India

Varanasi News

“The discussion around the ethics of collecting continues to evolve and today I think museums are taking a hard look at their collections and taking steps to make sure that works that were acquired by illegal means or unethical means … that we find a way to address that situation.”

Interview with Timothy Long

Regina Leader-Post

Works in the Exhibition

Divya Mehra, <i>The World Isn’t a Fair Place: Just Barely Adrift on your perceived Cultural Landscape (The Browning of America and the Color of Crime)</i>, 2018, inflatable polyester book. Photo by Sarah Fuller. Image courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.

Divya Mehra, The World Isn’t a Fair Place: Just Barely Adrift on your perceived Cultural Landscape (The Browning of America and the Color of Crime), 2018, inflatable polyester book. Photo by Sarah Fuller. Image courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.

Divya Mehra, <i>There is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away (Not Vishnu: New ways of Darsána)</i>, 2020, coffee, sand, chamois leather, leather cord, metal grommets, 2.4 lbs. Photo by Sarah Fuller. Image courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.

Divya Mehra, There is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away (Not Vishnu: New ways of Darsána), 2020, coffee, sand, chamois leather, leather cord, metal grommets, 2.4 lbs. Photo by Sarah Fuller. Image courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.

Divya Mehra, <i>Magic rocks. Fortune and glory.</i>, 2020, dotted line for treasure map, dimensions variable. Photo by Sarah Fuller. Image courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.</br>

Divya Mehra, Magic rocks. Fortune and glory., 2020, dotted line for treasure map, dimensions variable. Photo by Sarah Fuller. Image courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.

Divya Mehra, <i>Afterlife of Colonialism, a reimagining of Power: It’s possible that the Sun has set on your Empire OR Why your voice does not matter: Portrait of an Imbalanced, and yet contemporary diasporic India <strike>vis-à-vis Colonial Red, Curry Sauce Yellow, and Paradise Green, placed neatly beneath these revived medieval forms: The Challenges of entering a predominately White space (Can you get this in the gift shop?) where all Women and Magical Elephants may know this work, here in your Winnipeg, among all my Peers</strike >, desiring to be both seen and see the loot through this Jungle Vine camouflage,</i> 2020, inflatable attempt at the Taj Mahal, acrylic deep base paint, 15’ x 15’ x 15’.

Divya Mehra, Afterlife of Colonialism, a reimagining of Power: It’s possible that the Sun has set on your Empire OR Why your voice does not matter: Portrait of an Imbalanced, and yet contemporary diasporic India vis-à-vis Colonial Red, Curry Sauce Yellow, and Paradise Green, placed neatly beneath these revived medieval forms: The Challenges of entering a predominately White space (Can you get this in the gift shop?) where all Women and Magical Elephants may know this work, here in your Winnipeg, among all my Peers, desiring to be both seen and see the loot through this Jungle Vine camouflage, 2020, inflatable attempt at the Taj Mahal, acrylic deep base paint, 15’ x 15’ x 15’.

Norman MacKenzie, <i>Idols: Hindustan, Thibet, Buhrma, China, Congo</i>, c. 1920 - 1936. MacKenzie Art Gallery Reference Collection. Photo by Sarah Fuller. Image courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.

Norman MacKenzie, Idols: Hindustan, Thibet, Buhrma, China, Congo, c. 1920 - 1936. MacKenzie Art Gallery Reference Collection. Photo by Sarah Fuller. Image courtesy the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.

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