Nibha Akireddy’s Art Is A Powerful Exploration Of Memory And Cultural Heritage

Nibha Akireddy explores themes of identity, memory, and cultural heritage.
Nibha Akireddy explores themes of identity, memory, and cultural heritage.Nibha Akireddy

Nibha Akireddy is an, San Francisco-based artist with Indian origins whose work explores themes of identity, memory, and cultural heritage. Her artwork spans a variety of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, and mixed media, and often incorporates elements of her Indian heritage and her experiences as an immigrant through symbols and iconography. Creating a sense of energy and movement, her paintings often combine bright, contrasting colours in dynamic compositions with a strong sense of line and form; incorporating a distinct texture and depth.

The artist spoke to Homegrown about her inspirations and process in a particularly insightful interview.

What are some of your biggest influences as an artist?

Right now, I’m influenced a lot by physical movement and sport. I’ve been building out a series of works that explore my own relationship with toxic masculinity, both in society and personally, through sports. I did a few sports in high school, and ended up in dance teams in both high school and college, both of which were great places for me to find community. I also took up weightlifting and am now interested in boxing and mobility work. I’ve created paintings and sculptures inspired by Bhangra and Bharatanatyam, but most recently, I finished a piece that focused on steel clubs. These weights were traditionally used by Indian and Persian wrestlers but popularized in the West by the British. I’ve been looking through diagrams and drawings published in the late 1800’s while also learning about the traditional pre-colonial history of clubbells.

Who are some artists who are currently on your radar?

I’ve been keeping up with a lot of contemporary artists like Sasha Gordon, Oscar Hou, and Sahana Ramakrishnan. As I’m sure the creators of this platform understand, Instagram has opened up a whole new world for me artistically, where I’m able to interact with these networks of contemporary artists all across the nation and world.

A project you wish you were a part of?

I’m really excited by projects like the Wonder Women show at Jeffrey Deitch gallery. It’s so amazing seeing this network of young, Asian-American women artists come together, and I’d love to be a part of a network like that one day. I’ve also been following the Punjabi Art Collective based in Berkeley. I’m hoping to see more from them and other collectives like them pop up around the Bay Area.

Tell us about your project.

This piece, “Threading Salon,” is inspired by the fine and powerful art of eyebrow threading. Having recently moved to San Francisco post-graduation, I found myself constantly having conversations with people trying to find their new go-to eyebrow threader. It almost feels like finding your new regular threading salon means you’re finally moved in -- that you’re home, which means so much in this new phase of life.There’s so much to be said about community, care, and feminine independence in threading salons, and this painting attempts to highlight those strengths.

What are some things you learned while putting this project together?

This is the first piece I put together in years without using my own reference photos for the figures. I pulled photos from Yelp reviews, news articles, and public stock images. I only visited Yelp pages of eyebrow salons that I’ve been to, and I also revisited eyebrow salon business cards and stamp cards I’ve collected throughout the years. The process of creating this painting was unlike most of my other paintings, and it was also the first painting I made with this kind of loose scratchy background. I think it came together beautifully, and it’s been amazing seeing it be loved and shared by so many people around the world. It’s so interesting that, online, this is by far

Describe your creative process and the purpose with which you create.

I still feel so young in my artistic journey that I’m not sure I can confidently say why I make what I make. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be entirely confident in my “purpose,” but, as of now, I like to make art about who and what I encounter directly around me. My art is about storytelling, both a journal for myself to remember moments and periods of time and a way to chronicle stories I find inspiring. I guess I make art to find people who resonate with these stories and hopefully articulate them in new and interesting ways. My actual artistic process varies depending on what kind of work I’m making. Over the past few years, I’ve started, rather than taking reference photos, taking reference videos, which I then screenshot and collage together as I paint. I love capturing movement in my paintings and find that videos help me achieve that more than photos. I want my paintings to feel like they compress movement through time into these flat, 2-D renderings.

What are some of your biggest inspirations over the years of your artistic career?

So much of my foundation as an artist was laid in the art classes I took as a kid (shoutout to Drawn2Art Los Altos and everyone there). My art teachers there gave me so much, from my earliest education on art history to my music taste, to my first figure drawing classes, all before I was even a teenager. Besides the incredible art teachers I grew up with, I of course have to thank my parents for putting so much of their time, effort, and resources into my art classes. I never really grew up going to galleries or museums, so I found a lot of inspiration in the art I interacted with day-to-day. I’ve always loved TV and movies, and constantly pull from imagery I encounter on the screen and in movie posters. My art centers around storytelling and direct, approachable communication, which I feel echoed in the cinematic content I love. Throughout college, I learned that I found myself most excited by dance, music, history, and film -- realms that, to me, combine art-making with community practice and experience. I’ve made works inspired by books like The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, movie posters (from Hindi, Telugu, and Bengali language cinema), the Beatles/70s psychedelic culture in America, and the sport of Indian club swinging, to name a few sources of inspiration throughout the past few years.

Follow Nibha here

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