An Artist Who Carved Her Own Space in the Male-Dominated World of Sculpture is Meera Mukherjee.


An Artist Who Carved Her Own Space in the Male-Dominated World of Sculpture is Meera Mukherjee.

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Male artists have always been connected with the art form of sculpture. Women are frequently associated with painting or craft because these mediums are thought to be more mellow and suitable for their "nimble" fingers. On the other side, sculpture is frequently seen as a more manly art genre.

The art form is frequently seen with a guy making carving tools, and this image is frequently sexualized in popular culture. It's common to believe that women find it challenging to participate in the art form that necessitates the use of several different tools. Religious sculptures of deities or other items are frequently created with ideas of purity and rituals in mind, neatly excluding women from the process.

Women have however continued to enter the field of sculpture and establish themselves as artists despite these social taboos and barriers. One such artist, Meera Mukherjee, was well-known for her sculptures. She painted and wrote as well. She was born in 1923 and showed an early interest in artistic endeavours.

At age 14, Meera Mukherjee enrolled at the Abanindranath Tagore-founded Indian Society of Oriental Art School. She then enrolled herself at the Delhi Polytechnic, where she graduated in 1947 with a diploma in painting, graphics, and sculpture. She studied painting at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kuenste in Germany in 1953.

But she dropped her painting class after the first semester and switched to sculpting, which is how she rose to fame around the world. After being awarded the Indo-German Fellowship at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, Meera Mukherjee continued to pursue her art but also became aware of the limitations in her work brought on by her distance from her home, which she found to be the primary source of her artistic expression and inspiration.

It is thought that she also embarked on a trip to learn about herself, and her identity, and to revisit her "Indianness" during this period. Meera Mukherjee's urge to go back to the Indian folk artists was infamously sparked by Tony Staedler, her mentor in Munich, telling her to look for her art in the indigenous traditions of her own country rather than in Europe.

She went back to India in 1957 and started working as an art teacher at the Dowhill School in Kurseong, Bengal. She stayed there until 1959 when she moved to Kolkata to work at Pratt Memorial School, where she stayed until her resignation in 1960. The Gharuan tribe and Murals-Dhokra sculptors from the Bastar area of Chhattisgarh have influenced Meera Mukherjee's work.

By working as their apprentice, Meera Mukherjee was able to learn the Dhokras' distinctive sculpting methods. Cire perdue, often known as the "lost wax" technique, is another name for the Dhokra method of sculpture. From this, she created her own form and sculpting technique by inventing a bronze casting.

To "preserve the tactile essence of the material, then build it up and add surface embellishment using strips and rolls," this technique called for first sculpting the wax works. The bronze material is thought to appear delicate, organic, and flexible because of Mukherjee's artistic touch, which gives the piece a special type of lyricism and rhythm despite the material's inherent hardness.

To elaborate on the topics she uses in her work, Meera Mukherjee's sculptures are based on the average guy going about his daily tasks. Her subjects were fishermen, weavers, seamstresses, and labourers. Her work also displayed resonances with nature, music, dancing, and Bengali calligraphy.

In 1960, Meera Mukherjee presented her debut production. She was honoured with the President's Award of Master Craftsman in Metalwork for her excellent work. She started her research visits in Madhya Pradesh on her own at first, but the Anthropological Survey of India soon awarded her a two-year stipend to support her work.

"She was hired by the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) to record the techniques used by Central Indian metalworkers. She continued to examine metalworkers in India and Nepal while working as a Senior Research Fellow at the ASI from 1961 to 1964. Her travels in India took her to the eastern, southern, and tribal heartland of the state of Madhya Pradesh. She set out to learn how art forms and the lives of the artisans intersected. She maintained a close relationship with proponents of "living traditions," including Prabash Sen and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, during her time as a Senior Fellow.

The culmination of her nationwide research was published in 1978's Metal Craftsmen of India under the aegis of the Anthropological Survey of India.

She received the Kolkata Ladies' Study Group Award in 1976, the West Bengal Government's Abanindra Prize in 1981, the Press Award for Master Craftsman in 1968, and a fellowship from the Ministry of Culture from 1984 to 1986, to name a few of her honours. Folk Metalcraft in India (1978), Metal Craft in India (1978), and Metal Craftsmen in India were publications she produced (1979). Additionally, she received the Padma Shri honour (1992).

Rarely studied artist Meera Mukherjee has had a significant impact on the world of art as well as an "artist-anthropologist travelling around the sub-continent recording art and craft practises among artisanal communities," according to her biography. Her artistic expression is intriguing because she doesn't confine herself to a single medium and employs teachings, essays, and paintings to convey her ideas.

Meera's anthropological investigation was incredibly individualised and modernist. She stated, "While learning their techniques as a professional sculptor, information about these communities was gathered." Her journals repeatedly show how these two impulses intertwined: she was a deeply subjective aesthete navigating her own negotiations with the constraints of tribal forms as she integrated herself into the cultural economy of Bastar, where she lived for extended periods. She was also a documentary filmmaker who documented tribal and folk craftsmen.

A particular sorrow that is portrayed in Meera Mukherjee's art has been noted by some academics and researchers who have extensively examined her works and journals. She actively participates and travels the subcontinent in search of inspiration for her work, but she also intuitively conveys the challenges she had when fusing her personal and creative selves.

"As much as it records an undulation of memory, grief, and hope, her art and inventiveness (rain, fire, varying temperatures of heated metal, viscosity, porosity, casting process) seem to record an undulation of memory, suffering, and hope." Her sculptures and the flexible methods she uses can be seen in some ways as a rebuilding of her own life and identity while also demonstrating some flexibility.


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