Visual Arts

Fifi Shines as Bollywood-Style Avatar in Work of Siri Devi Khandavilli at Lisa Sette Gallery

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Kama is the artist's take on post-modernity's obsessions with vanity, fame, wealth and the insatiable lust for the latest and best. They are soul-eating diseases endemic to most cultures -- and all too conspicuous in this era of Internet-fueled, pop culture-laced globalization. These recurrent themes in Khandavilli's work first developed when the artist came to Arizona at age 19 via a traditional arranged marriage and began to study art at ASU.

The barbed tangle of the traditional and the transgressive profiled in her work, whatever the media, has caused serious consternation in more religiously and culturally conservative viewers. Others have embraced the work enthusiastically, like two top U.S. contemporary art collectors, who have purchased one of each bronze in the small, limited-edition series.

Khandavilli's deity statues, like the original ones upon which they have been patterned, are served up on bases -- lotus pedestals and a festival cart, among others -- and often featured in highly sensual poses associated with standard Hindu iconography. But that's where the similarities to real Hindu effigies end.

In Vilasa Viharini (2013), a perky-tailed dog deity idol in a stylized, poofy poodle cut is being dragged in a wheeled cart by two tiny bearers, a common scene during India's innumerable religious festivals. Kama morphs into a dog-headed vamp in obscenely high heels and clingy gown caught self-satisfiedly gazing into a mirror in Darpana Sundari (2012), while in Diva (2013), the poodle goddess totes a jewel-encrusted handbag patterned after one the artist saw recently selling for $3.6 million.

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Kathleen Vanesian