Priya Suresh Kambli: I am an American/I am an Indian

On view Nov. 12, 2022, to Mar. 12, 2023

Priya Kambli installing her art exhibition
The artist installing Priya Suresh Kambli: I am an American/I am an Indian, photo EG Schempf

Born in India, living in Missouri, visual artist Priya Suresh Kambli experiences life through a dual lens. She is an American citizen, holds a US passport, and has lived in the States for decades — yet her Indian identity will forever influence the way she moves about the world.

I am an American/I am an Indian is an installation of phrases formed with sugar. This exhibition is one component of Kambli’s larger body of work titled Passport Cancelled as the Holder has Acquired Foreign Nationality. The project was inspired by an experience the artist had in 2011, in which Kambli was required to give up her Indian nationality after becoming an American citizen. There was no room for cultural duality in her passport.

Kambli investigates her identity and its representation using text as a visual anchor, at once claiming and disclaiming certain cultural labels. On one shelf is a positive declaration, for example: “I am an Indian.” Nearby is the response: “I am not your Indian.” Kambli’s use of sugar also carries a dual significance. After visits to India, it is customary to consume something sweet upon departure. This way, the bitterness of leaving might be sweetened. Similarly, in Kambli’s work, the fixed labels we often assign to our identities might be tempered.

Priya Suresh Kambli: I am an American/I am an Indian is on display Nov. 12, 2022, through Mar. 12, 2023, in the McCaffree Gallery.