Priya Kambli received her BFA at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette and an MFA from the University of Houston. She is currently Professor of Art at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. Kambli’s work inadvertently examines the question asked by her son Kavi at age three; did she belong to two different worlds, since she spoke two different languages? The essence of his question continues to be a driving force in her art making. In her work, Kambli has always strived to understand the formation and erasure of identity that is an inevitable part of the migrant experience, exploring the resulting fragmentation of family, identity, and culture.
Kambli’s artwork has been well received, having been exhibited, published, collected and reviewed in the national and international photographic community. She was the winner of the inaugural Female in Focus, 2019 award - aimed at addressing the gender imbalance in the industry by highlighting the exceptional quality of work by female photographers around the world. She is also the winner of the 2021 Individual Artist Outstanding Artist by the Missouri Arts Council. The success of Kambli’s work underlines the fact that she is engaged in an important dialogue, and reinforces her intent to make work driven by a growing awareness of the importance of many voices from diverse perspectives and the political relevance of our private struggles.
In my work I have always strived to understand the formation and erasure of identity that is an inevitable part of the migrant experience, exploring the resulting fragmentation of family, identity, and culture. Though intensely personal in some ways, Buttons for Eyes looks outward by documenting a story of migration and cultural hybridization that has particular resonance in a political climate marked by anti-immigrant rhetoric. It does so by mining an archive of family heirlooms, artworks, photographs, and other documents, even as it creates new images – new documents – which become part of that collection.
Sona and Me (Premier Pandmini), 2017
Release Date: August 27, 2021
My approach to imaginatively exploring content is to combine labor intensive practice with playful experimentation. I obsessively embellish archival photographs with a variety of materials, gravitating towards items that are humble and grounded in everyday use. I re-contextualize these familial associations for my own artistic and creative purposes, but also as a way of embellishing my past and connecting it to the present. These alterations - the use of pattern in and on top of the object - have been described as a form of fenestration. Though they obscure the image, they create windows through which underlying structures are revealed.
Natural light has always been a key ingredient in my work. I use its mercurial nature as a sign of both the unpredictable and the transformational. In this series, my process of creating images is laborious, verging on obsessive; I labor to maintain these family photographs the way Indian housewives do their kitchen deities, by embellishing the archival photographs with a variety of materials, gravitating towards items that are humble - domestic and modest in nature – and grounded in everyday use. I re-contextualize the familial qualities of these materials for my own artistic and creative purposes, but also as a way of embellishing my past and connecting it to the present.
Release Date: January 14, 2022
I see this project as a way of sharing my story, and contributing to the broader cultural debate on migrant narratives at a moment in which anti-immigrant rhetoric, both in my community and nationally, is on the rise. As significant political forces try to suppress the concerns of those who are perceived as different, the need to present a variety of perspectives is simply more urgent. Sharing our stories has a civic and social impact; it helps us to better appreciate our differences but also recognize those threads that run throughout our sense of a common humanity.