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Botanicals with Bite

Botanicals with Bite

Botanicals with Bite

Summer 2024 issue of American Craft magazine
Sagarika Sundaram’s Kosha, from her Source exhibition at Palo Gallery in New York City. Photo by Daniel Greer, courtesy of Sagarika Sundaram and Palo Gallery, NYC.

Sagarika Sundaram’s Kosha, from her Source exhibition at Palo Gallery in New York City. Photo by Daniel Greer, courtesy of Sagarika Sundaram and Palo Gallery, NYC.

One evening in January, toward the end of sculptor and installation artist Sagarika Sundaram’s Source exhibition at Palo Gallery in New York City, a patron snuggled up to one of her enormous, psychedelic fiber sculptures and declared, “It’s cozy. You can feel its love.” Sundaram, who happened to be standing in another part of the gallery, described her pieces in less comforting terms. “I think of them more as fierce and a little grotesque,” she said. “I like to think these pieces have a life force, that they are fully awake.”

The artist creates her hand-dyed felted wool sculptures backward, by layering the wool from front to back, creating extravagant patterns and color combinations along the way. As she builds, she embeds eruptive pockets into the work, strategically placing “resists” to maintain the separation of layers when applying hot water to the wool. Later, she slashes the pockets open with scissors, making eyes or mouths or seed pods or flowers or fruits. These vivid apertures are subject to interpretation. The effect is “beyond language,” said Sundaram, a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute who grew up between India and Dubai.

Sundaram’s goal is to explore the psychological tension between inside and outside, surface and structure, suggesting “the intertwined nature of reality.” She wants viewers to think about gravity and physics and even Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. By the time she sliced open the pockets embedded in Kosha, 2023, made of hand-dyed felted wool, 102 x 102 x 8 inches, she’d forgotten what was hidden between the layers of felt. It wasn’t until the piece was flipped over, dried, cut, and hanging on a wall that she knew exactly what it would look like. Sundaram describes “walking into the unknown” as the thrill that propels her forward.

sagarikasundaram.com | @ohsagarika

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