The Sikh Foundation International and Ik Onkar Bridges are excited to partner with the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara in presenting Expressions of Divinity, the first contemporary Sikh fine art museum exhibit in the U.S. The exhibit of 43 paintings by Indian and local Sikh American artists, which opened Aug. 31, runs through Nov. 3.
“We’re literally blown away to have this opportunity,” said Sonia Dhami, Sikh Foundation executive director, at an artists’ reception at the Triton Museum Sept. 13.
The timing of the Expressions of Divinity exhibit couldn’t be more auspicious. This year — 2019 — is the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith.
It is Nanak’s life and teachings that have inspired the nine artists whose works are included in the exhibit. Their paintings reflect the Guru’s teachings of unity and equality for all, core beliefs of the Sikh faith.
Paintings by highly-regarded Indian artists Arapana Caur and Devender Singh, assembled from the Kapany Collection and other private collections, portray Nanak’s pilgrimages, visions and poetry from the Sikh holy book.
“Guru Nanak” is a 1969 traditional, realistic portrait by the late Sobha Singh, known as the “saint artist” of India.
In contrast, Santa Clara resident Sarabjit Singh depicts the Guru in a style that combines realism with abstraction and symbolism in her 2019 portrait “EkOnkar” (One Supreme Creator/Creation).
“I feel honored to be part of this and see how famous artists shaped the Guru, see their ideas of how he might have appeared,” said artist Sarabjit Singh at the Triton reception.
Artist Tanya Momi from Mountain View explained that “Whisper,” her 2008 portrait of faceless women, reflects her belief that women in all life circumstances need — but may not always receive — community support.
“Women play many roles in life,” said Momi. “I like to empower women and give them voice and vision to freely express themselves. I paint our own life experiences on canvas.”
Triton Museum Chief Curator Maria Esther Fernández said that the museum was delighted to host Expressions of Divinity.
“It’s important to bring in and reflect our community, to explore the complexities of our community,” said Fernández. “Our neighbors are reflected here. It’s important that we build these bridges.”
More than five centuries after his birth, Nanak and his teachings continue to inspire artistic creation in the Bay Area Sikh diaspora. And in viewing Expressions of Divinity, others may be inspired, like Nanak, to be more inclusive and venture across bridges.
“We need to ensure that our friends of other faiths, races and cultures understand who and what we are,” said Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany, founder in 1967 of the Sikh Foundation.
“We must present the beauty of our heritage without chauvinism. The wisdom, philosophy and arts of the Sikh faith belong to the world, and it is time now to bring them into the light.”
Fernández is proud that “the Triton has done a fabulous job in bringing diversity and inclusivity for artists of color in our public spaces and museum.”
She pointed out that a separate current exhibit represents an artist of Latino background. White Wilderness/Maleza Blanca, also on view through Nov. 3, is a unique sculpture exhibit by Mexican-born artist Hector Dionicio Mendoza.
Admission is free to the Triton Museum of Art, 1505 Warburton Ave. It is open daily except Mondays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (408) 247-2438 or visit www.tritonmuseum.org for more information.
For information about the Sikh Foundation International, with headquarters in Palo Alto, visit www.sikhfoundation.org.