priya kambli

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about kitchen gods

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I WAS BORN and raised in India. I moved to the United States at the age of 18, carrying my entire life in one suitcase weighing about 20 lbs. I began my artistic career in the States, and my work has always been informed by my experience as a migrant. I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette and continued on to receive a Masters degree in Photography from the University of Houston. I am currently an Associate Professor of Art at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri - a community where I have lived longer than anywhere else. It's here in Kirksville that I met my husband and had our beautiful son, Kavi, with whom I can finally share the language that I grew up speaking.


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One of my most startling early childhood memories is of seeing one of my father’s painstakingly composed family photographs pierced by my mother. She cut holes in them so as to completely obliterate her own face while not harming the image of my sister and myself beside her. Even as a child I was aware that this act was quite significant - but what it signified was beyond my ability to decipher. As an adult I continue to be disturbed by these artifacts, which not only encompass the photographer’s hand but also the subject’s fingerprints. Even though her incisions have a violent quality to them, as an image-maker I am aesthetically drawn by the physical mark, its presence and its careful placement.

These marred artifacts will form a reference point and inspiration for the series Kitchen Gods.  In my work I labor to maintain my parents the way Indian housewives do their kitchen deities. I also strive to connect the generations, my ancestors and my children, who have been separated by death and migration. Like my mother, I alter these photographs to modify the stories they tell.


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