Sheela Gowda. Of All People. 2011. Wood doors, shutters, doorframes, windows, pillars, table and fragments, framed photographs, wood chips, and metal chains, overall dimensions variable. Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds. © 2019 Sheela Gowda. Installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2019. Digital Image © 2019 MoMA, NY. Photo: John Wronn
  • MoMA, Floor 2, 212

To make Of All People, Gowda built an environment out of recycled architectural elements—doorjambs, window frames, and a wooden table—from houses that were torn down as a result of modernization in her native Bangalore. She painted these components bright yellows, pinks, and turquoises, colors characteristic of homes there, and then populated this setting with thousands of small wooden votive figurines, which are used in certain communal social rituals.

Once intricately hand-carved, these figurines are now quickly and cheaply produced by craftspeople, who make three small incisions into the wood to signify a face. Gowda photographed a selection of these “people” and hung them high on the wall, which is where a picture of an elder or an image of a deity might go in an Indian home. Gowda’s staged environment and the phantom bodies that inhabit it speak to systems of power that dictate how people live within structures—whether physical, economic, or ideological.

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