Indian American artist Sujata Tibrewala says, â€œArtists of color and in the country need platforms such as theseâ€
Over the years, Silicon Valley in Californiaâ€™s Bay Area has become a unique melting pot of cultural diversity in America. According to the available data about 27% of Californiaâ€™s population is foreign born, which is double the percentage in the rest of the country.
Surely, then the art, crafts and cultures emerging from the area must be reflecting a smorgasbord of what America looks like today. A distinctive display of this coming together of cultures and subcultures can be seen at the popular SubZero Festival in San Jose.
Now in its 14th edition, the festival was held earlier this month on June 2nd and 3rd. The South First Fridays ArtWalk is round the year event and SubZERO is in partnership with the ArtWalk.
The monthly art walk on Fridays gives a platform to artists, performers, entertainers, musicians to showcase their works. Gallery owner and arts organizer Cherri Lakey has been organizing the event along with her partner Brian Eder.
Both Lakey and Eder are passionate about the unexplored art scene in the area and aim through the exhibit to give a medium to the unexplored underbelly of San Jose. Lakey is also one of the founders of Anno Domini, a contemporary art and culture gallery in San Jose.
Artists from diverse backgrounds find the festival an excellent outlet for their unadulterated and original creative pursuits. One of the participating artists at this yearsâ€™ festival, Indian American Sujata Tibrewala says, â€œArtists of color and in the country need platforms such as these.â€
â€œAs Indian artists we often lament at the lack of opportunities available for us to showcase unique, rarely known aspects of our culture as they may not â€˜fit intoâ€™ the mainstream art scene.â€
â€œI am glad that subzero promotes that different take and even encourages the eccentricities various cultures bring in,â€ she says. â€œFor instance, when I show my India- centric art like Curvy Yoga, many Americans are blown away by the details as they have never known yoga in its original Indian context.â€
On the sidelines of the summer festival, the American Bazaar catches up with Cherri Lakey on subcultures and the importance of giving them a platform.
AB: The festival talks about emerging and present subcultures. Can you tell us a bit more about it and why do you thinkÂ presentingÂ subcultures is important to America?Â
CL:Â Subculture and counterculture is important everywhere. Itâ€™s a wellspring for new ideas and visions of an existence apart from the normal view of a banal reality.
While most people areÂ mimicking and regurgitating theÂ â€œwhat is,â€ there are artists, musicians, poets,Â andÂ creators moving the boundaries of our perception and possibilities of what the human experience is and can be.
The irony is that much of what begins as subculture does become mainstream and once that happens it begins its decline into normalcy. But the beauty is that subculture then pops up somewhere else, fresh andÂ relevant again.
AB: Tell us about how you thought about the concept. What were your motivations/ driving forces?
CL:Â My partner- Brian Eder – and I, always felt like outsiders. But also felt that we must not be the only ones. We wanted to create spaces and experiences for all of us that donâ€™t seem to fit into the normal world view of being born, work, eat, sleep, and then die cycle of life.
The niceÂ surprise is that there are a lot of us and theseÂ events are our annualÂ gatherings to exhibit and celebrate ourÂ individualÂ creativities and talents and search for a more meaningful life.
The aim is not to protest or go against anyoneâ€™s view or experience of the life theyâ€™re living, but to present and share the broader possibilities and potential of a more artful, soulful existence in balance with the utilitarian existence.
READ: San Jose street fair to feature Indian art and cultureÂ (April 26, 2023)
AB: Asian art and particularly Indian art in America has not gone mainstream yet, can you tell us any interactions you had with Indian or South Asian artisans and what do you think about it?Â
CL:Â Iâ€™d be worried for the arts and culture of Asian and Indian going â€œmainstreamâ€â€¦American culture tends to discover, consume, cannibalize, box it up and sell it back to you at a high profit.
Most cultures abroad still view the arts and culture as an expression of tradition and spiritual beliefsÂ surviving thousands of years. Each has their own and should be respected and held in reverence, not commercialized.
AB: While going through the line-up this year I also saw interesting activities like a henna stall. Can you tell us more about the interesting cultural tidbitsÂ and their reception?
CL:Â The beautification of art and (sub)culture is that it transcends physical heritage and geographic location. Art is a vertical language that rises up to ideas, imagination and visual expression of the individual and how they see the world, and how they fit into the world and universe.
Our event has artists working not only in visual paintings and sculpture across the spectrum of imagery and styles, but belly dancers, sound bowl healing, digital mapping projections, video game makers, tattoo artists, film makers, improv mod synth, contemporary dance, and poetry on demand.
The overall reception is very positive and supportive. For many visitors, whether they have lived here for most of their lives, or just arrived a few months ago, they are shocked at the diversity of the San Jose arts we present.
We like to think this gives them a different perspective from San Joseâ€™s typical reputation of being an â€œarts and culture wastelandâ€ which builds the arts community and scene, as well as civic pride in our city and its residents.