Kolam: An Ephemeral Women’s Art of South India

An exhibition of photographs and video by Claudia Silva
March 25 – June 26, 2019
Simons Center Gallery, Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, Stony Brook University, NY

Opening Reception Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Reception: 5:00 pm, Simons Center Gallery and SCGP Lobby
Artist Talk: 5:30 pm, Kolam: An Ephemeral Women’s Art of South India, by Claudia Silva, Della Pietra Family Auditorium, SCGP 103

Curated by Lorraine Walsh
Art Director and Curator, Simons Center for Geometry and Physics
Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Art, Stony Brook University

The Simons Center Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Kolam: An Ephemeral Women’s Art of South India, featuring photographs and videos of kolam drawings by Claudia Silva.

Every morning before sunrise in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, millions of women draw kolams on the ground with white rice flour, chalk, or colored powders. Throughout the day, their drawings are walked and rained on, and eventually disappear. The activity begins anew the next dawn in a daily tribute to welcome all beings into one’s home.

The kolam is thought to be auspicious. Located at the entrance of the household, it is a symbol ensuring harmony and prosperity for all who enter. They come in a variety of patterns, but the continuous loop designs characterized by one or more curved lines winding around a grid of dots is considered most traditionally Tamil.

As for the historic roots of the tradition, some studies trace the threshold designs to approximately 2500 BCE in the Indus Valley Civilization (Pakistan and northwest India today). And while the custom is predominantly practiced by women in southern India, it is also seen in a few places in northern India and South East Asia.

Claudia Silva is a photographer and videographer. She developed Kolam: An EphemeralWomen’s Art of South India during travels to Tamil Nadu from 2012 to 2019. This work is part of her audiovisual research on the transmission of traditions in different cultures and their anthropological value. Other exhibitions of Silva’s kolam photographs include the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (ICMAT) Madrid, University of Porto, and Wolfson College, Oxford University. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, she currently lives in Madrid, Spain.


Visitor Information
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For more information visit https://scgp.stonybrook.edu or call 631-632-2800.


The Simons Center Gallery’s goals include hosting the highest quality and most intellectually inquisitive art by internationally acclaimed artists working at the intersection of art, science, and technology. The exhibitions and events at the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook University feature artistic and scientific concepts accessible through a broad range of media for meaningful experiences that ignite imagination and inspire ideas.