“Kalacharam” means “culture” in the south Indian language Tamil. Under this primary theme, Julie Williams-Krishnan presents three exhibitions: “The Third Eye,” “The Bindi Collection,” and “Morning Poetry.”
Williams-Krishnan has been traveling regularly to Chennai in south India since 2007. These trips are made to visit her husband’s family, who is based in Chennai. As a Caucasian originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, Williams-Krishnan says, “I use photography as a way to observe, process, and celebrate my growing familiarity with my south Indian family and the region. The three bodies of work on display here are all shot in the family home, where Tamil is spoken, Brahmin traditions are strictly observe my understanding of a place that is my home, but even after all these years, remains fascinating.”
In Hindu tradition, the third eye is referred to as the “the eye of knowledge,” the seat of the “teacher inside.” This is denoted with a dot or mark on the forehead between the brows. It is a state of having deeply personal, spiritual or psychological significance. ”The Third Eye” series is comprised of images photographed from South Indian Tamil soap operas. The third eye reveals itself variously, showing us not only the literal representation of the third eye, but also enlightening the viewers to issues of culture, tradition, gesture, mystery and beauty. This series was shot during one of Williams-Krishnan’s early visits, when her husband and father-in-law left for a few days on a pilgrimage to the family temple, and she was at home with the rest of the family. Watching the serials was a favored pass time of their now late grandmother.
In The Bindi Collection, Williams-Krishnan has photographed her mother-in-law’s bindis after she wears them. She sticks them to the wall to re-use another day – a habit shared by Hindu women throughout India. Williams-Krishnan discovered this custom upon her first visit to her husband’s family home. The Bindi Collection has been photographed over several years in Chennai, India and London, United Kingdom. Currently comprised of twenty images, the collection is trace evidence of a growing relationship and understanding between mother and daughter-in-law, as well as social commentary and anthropological study. Once Amma realized Williams-Krishnan was photographing her bindis, she began to remove them from the walls prior to visits. They are now a rare and precious find.
Morning Poetry was photographed one morning in and around the family home. As prayers were being said, and food was being prepared, Williams-Krishnan breathed in the morning, with all its blessings, and wondered around the house responding to the call of the day.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.