Shakun Maheshwari

I was born in Rajasthan, India, a state of princes and palaces, but my memories from childhood are of the simple memories of village life. Weddings were the best times, when we dressed up and applied henna on our hands. More than an art form, the application of henna was a social event for all the women in the community. I spent hours learning how to create the intricate designs on my own hand.

The constant exposure to folk art sparked my interest in many different art forms. I started painting and decorating household objects, from drinking glasses to pottery. My family and friends were impressed with what I did and gave me encouragement and opportunities to continue pursuing my interest. In college, I majored in biology, but the most interesting part for me was creating incredibly detailed drawings of anatomy and plants.

After college, I tried even more art forms – beadwork, wire sculpture, and batik. I also made my first forays into painting, clay, and plaster-of-paris sculpture. I had my first one-person art show in Bombay, where I showed paintings, embroidery, sculpture, and decorated textiles.

After I married, I came to the US and started displaying my work at local art shows. As my kids started going to school, I started teaching art but soon realized I was the one that needed to learn more. I started a program at North Hennepin Community College, and received a certificate in Graphic Design in 1993. This was an incredible experience for me.

I was exposed to new ways of creating and expressing myself. I experimented with all different mediums – pastel, watercolor, pen-and-ink, mixed-media, and photography. I particularly fell in love with photography and the darkroom process. The most important gain from North Hennepin was that I started to develop my own personal style. I began to integrate elements from my Indian heritage with modern methods and mediums.

In 1995-96 I opened my own gallery, Shakuntala Gallery on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. This was a great learning experience for me, and while it was an enjoyable experience, it became quite time consuming. When the city began to demolish the buildings, I closed the gallery and ran my business out of my home and also started teaching more. After attending workshops at Intermedia Arts I became the roster artist for Young Audiences. The folk arts from my childhood, specifically the arts of henna and rangoli, became a important part of my art teaching. I started to demonstrate and teach these arts in schools and various cultural festivals.

My art now reflects a combination of my knowledge of folk art, photography and graphic design. Based on my ethnic background – colors, stylized designs, and story telling is evident in my work. I have participated in many art shows and art competitions and won numerous awards over the years in both paintings and photographs. I have shown my work in various galleries and participated in art shows throughout the Midwest, California, and India.

Last year I participated festival of nations, Edina art fair, Loring park art fair, Women’s art show. Did residency and workshop at schools and Libraries through Compas, art Start, Minnetonka center for the Arts 2019 solo shows Coffman Union in October 2018 – January 2019, and at North Hennepin community college 2019.