Priyanka Rana[Above photo] has taken toys to a different level. Her work connects her lived life as a mother of two young children and her individuality as an artist. Through her developing signature style, she elevates everyday objects like toys to the high pedestal of art.
Myriad plastic toys – airplanes, dinosaurs, motorcycles, tools, horses, bikes, figurines, and other playing materials are creatively arranged and framed in a thick California Oak tree trunk. The use of the locally sourced tree solidly locates the sculpture in its surroundings.
Reflecting on her art, Priyanka says, “There is a playful use of mediums in my work that questions our perceived value of materials. As our world shrunk during the pandemic, I became ever more aware of the objects around me, footprint of my consumption, my role as a caregiver in a multi-generational family, and time became a currency that I didn’t have enough. This led to a shift in my medium, my forms became bigger yet they spoke of smaller focal view.”
She showcased three enchanting pieces at the Silicon Valley Sculpture 2021 – Shifting Perspectives, at the expansive grounds of Menlo College in Atherton CA. Her larger piece “Window of Inspiration” has also been displayed at Palo Alto as a public art piece.
The SVS show is the initiative of Dr. Katharina Powers director of Art Ventures Gallery in Menlo Park. The lead artist for the show – Foon Sham, is a Washington D.C based sculptor widely known for his wood sculptures “rooted in philosophy and politics”.
The Silicon Valley Sculpture (SVS) fine art fair is the main fundraiser for Menlo Park Public Art (MPPA), a nonprofit organization with the goal of defining Silicon Valley through public art. By exhibiting large-scale sculptures in the heart of Silicon Valley, MMPA is increasing access to art in an area where the importance of technology has often surpassed the recognition of other forms of culture. In addition to large-scale fine art sculptures with a narrative exhibited in a natural environment, the event also included two panel discussions and performance art that draws attention to pressing issues facing the Silicon Valley community, such as privacy, equality, displacement.
The thirty or so engaging sculptures displayed in the show ranged from the figurative to abstract and small to big. It was interesting to see how artists had used a multitude of mediums including bronze, steel, iron, copper, plastic, wood, paper, glass, stone, fiberglass etc. to create these fascinating pieces.
Sculpture unlike painting is 3-dimensional. It engages us visually, tactually and sometimes audibly as well as seen in the captivating “wind sculptures” by Roger Heitzman in the show.
I also had a chance to meet sculptor Nicki Adani, whose soaring sculptures of birds in flight represent “…the metamorphosis of women leaving behind what has weakened us, and coming home to who we truly are. By connecting with our inner strength, we spread our wings and soar.”
The organizers deserve appreciation for thoughtfully putting together a strong palette of twenty-eight artists reflecting some of the multicultural diversity of the Bay area, as well as I believe, their effort towards a more balanced gender and age representation.
Statistics tell us that works by women artists make up only 3-5% of all museum collections in the US. Furthermore, less than 15% of the collections in major museums are works by artists of color. Sculpture too has been a heavily male-dominated sphere. Young upcoming Indian American artists like Priyanka Rana and others like her are bringing in the much-needed balance and feminine perspective to the field.
For minority immigrant communities, this is what progress looks like. To have our young artists –represent our community and showcase our unique stories.