This is a portrait of a classical Odissi dancer. Jewellery is worn and portrayed extensively in Indian dance. Instead of the usual traditional real jewellery and flowers in this dancer’s hair, she is wearing quite a few insects and birds as her jewellery.
Jewellery plays a very important function in Indian women’s lives. It serves to beautify, show wealth and status and as a savings bank to be accessed in case of financial setbacks. In some cases, the precious and semi-precious metals and stones are considered protective and believed to promote health. Silver is usually worn to ward off the evil eye and protect the wearer. Gold is linked to the Goddess of wealth, Laxmi. Jewellery may also be worn for luck, like to influence horoscope events!
This painting looks normal from a distance, featuring a dancer with Indian jewellery. Viewers tend to first perceive what they expect to see, while actually what is painted is something else entirely. It is only when you come really close to the painting that you realise that this painting tricks the eye. In this case the real jewellery is living nature, birds, reptiles, and insects. I believe that the beautiful jewellery visible everywhere in India does not meet the standard of beauty of God’s creation of nature.
As is common in my work, the notion of “don’t believe what you think you see” is evident. This painting says, “do not assume things in life”. “Be careful about what you think you see and look carefully around you.” Humankind is all too often quite callus. We are often ready to make bad decisions based on quick misinterpretations of what we see and experience.
This painting shows respect to nature and honours it. Look at the peaceful expression of the dancer she is at peace with the bees and other creatures as her decoration because she is mother nature. She is in a trance of peace and happiness. Everything is in balance.
Detail of Satire of Life Painting