Artist Tanya Maheshwari on fighting the male gaze through self-portraiture


Artist Tanya Maheshwari is fighting the male gaze through self-portraits

The artist makes insightful statements on gender and identity

By Rajashree Balaram  January 31st, 2020

We live in times of strange contradictions. Even as means and mediums of artistic expression are burgeoning in numbers, artists everywhere are being compelled to school themselves to more painfully constricting guidelines on rectitude. A new breed of artists though is dodging it all—and bravely so. They are the ones taking Instagram by storm as they showcase bold new concepts fearlessly, post after post, to a live worldwide audience 24/7. We got the fiery warrior Tanya Maheshwari to share with us her ammunition.

Installation artist, illustrator and knitwear designer Maheshwari does not find it easy to be voluble about her work or her achievements. Her conciseness, though, is especially delightful when viewed against the provocative and insightful statements on gender, feminism and identity so obvious in her work. Maheshwari made people squeamish some time back with a series of images that attempted to destigmatise menstruation and armpits. The strong reactions that the images evoked only helped: “It’s okay if they don’t want to listen. I had something that needed to be said.”

 

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‘Tanya it’s a bit much now’ #neva #huehue #red

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Favourite themes: “Inheritance of gendered identity, the male gaze, hyper-sexualisation, personal histories.”

Surviving the gram: “I used to agonise over every image that I posted earlier, but now I post and let my art raise its voice without being too self-conscious about it.”

 

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m/ale g:::aze #🖕🏽#feministart #textileart

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Lessons on selfhood: “People mistake my edgy body art for vanity or as an attempt to seek attention. But this self-portraiture has made me more aware of nuances of human behaviour. It is fascinating how our body language is a constantly evolving output of so many external influences and centuries of conditioning that we are not even aware of.”