Notes on the India Series

“Alleyway in Varanasi”, oil on canvas, 2009.

I met a lovely lady at the fair this weekend and she was kind enough to ask some questions about my India paintings.

On the Series: I was lucky enough to travel to India for a semester study abroad program in college, and I based this series on Varanasi, the oldest living city in the world and a magnificent convergence of death and humanity.

Situated right on the River Ganges, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains consider the city sacred. The painting The Ganges (India #3), below, depicts the stairs known as ghats that travel to the edge of the river, where Hindus travel hundreds of miles to bathe and boats gather to carry ashes out to sea. Because of its religious significance, Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi is auspicious and might release them from the cycle of reincarnation. Along the river are funeral pyres where the dead are cremated nearly around the clock. Ceremonies are a way of life.

“The Ganges”, oil on canvas, 2009.

Buddhism was founded nearby, ten miles away at Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon around 500 B.C. The city itself is 3,000 years old.

The buildings creep up around you like a twisting staircaseIn a place like India, where the culture pulses, it’s difficult to imagine oneself in solitude, as portrayed in Alleyway in Varanasi (India #1). We walked a ways into the winding alleyways and then wandered a bit more. Even within this maze, it’s nearly impossible to get lost in India. There are very few accurate maps of the cities, but for a few rupees someone will guide you back.

Our tour guides were two charming 11 year-old boys who spoke enough English, French, Italian and German to make a sale. And they did – I’m still finding new silk scarves in my closet. I cannot wait to return to India a little wiser.

“All Roads are Alleys”, oil on canvas, 2009.

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