Image credit:
Fereshtini #9, Siona Benjamin, gouache and 22K gold leaf on museum board, 9 x 11 in.

Submitted by the Skirball Museum 

The identity of Indian-American-Jewish artist Siona Benjamin is layered and multifaceted, just like her artwork. The Skirball Museum on the historic Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is pleased to present Beyond a: The Art of Siona Benjamin, a solo exhibition featuring over forty works engaging themes of immigration, gender, religion, and the role of art in social change. The exhibition opens on Thursday, April 20 at 5:30 pm in Mayerson Hall with a reception and illustrated lecture by the artist. The lecture will be offered live and via Livestream. 

Raised as a Jew and member of the Bene Israel community in largely Hindu and Muslim Mumbai, Siona Benjamin attended Catholic and Zoroastrian schools before moving to the United States. The Bene Israel (Sons of Israel) is the largest and oldest of several groups of Jews in India. Believed by tradition to have shipwrecked on the Konkan coast of western India more than twenty one hundred years ago, they were absorbed into Indian society, maintaining many Jewish observances while operating within the caste system. Of some sixty seven thousand Bene Israel at the turn of the twenty first century, less than five thousand remain in India, the great majority having immigrated to Israel.

Benjamin’s transcultural view has been shaped by diverse, complex experiences and is inspired by history and mythology, as powerfully seen by the captivating figures and symbolism that populate her art. Through vibrantly hued paintings, Benjamin blends tradition with innovation, and navigates feelings of inclusion and exclusion. Further reflecting current issues, her work considers and challenges perceptions about culture, race, and religion. In crossing boundaries and building bridges, she asks viewers to do the same. 

Benjamin’s art has been shown in galleries, museums, and sacred spaces around the world. She has been awarded two Fulbright Fellowships to explore the theme of multicultural art in Israel and India.

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Samantha Baskind, Distinguished Professor of Art History at Cleveland State University. According to Baskind, “Benjamin’s work mingles a mingles Jewish, Indian, Persian, Hindu, Islamic, and Christian artistic precedents, as well as American Pop to create art that refuses simple categorization.”  Baskind will present a lecture on May 31 exploring how Benjamin’s layered and multi-faceted identity influences her artwork. A full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition. 

The Skirball Museum is the final venue for Beyond Borders: The Art of Siona Benjamin. Previous venues were the Norton Center for the Arts, Centre College, Danville, Kentucky, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, and The Galleries at Cleveland State University, the second venue for a national tour of the three HUC-JIR campuses in North America. The exhibition runs through July 30, 2023 at the Skirball Museum. 

Additional public programs include Baskind’s lecture on Wednesday, May 31 and Coffee and Conversation with curatorial consultant Abby Schwartz on Tuesday, July 11. To register for the opening or to learn more about public programs, please contact the Skirball Museum, Autumn Wheeler, or go to the Skirball Museum website.