New Art exhibit coming to City Hall

January 7, 2013

By Caleb Heeringa

‘Ram Studio’ is one of the works on display at City Hall. Art By Donals Fels

New: Jan. 7, 3:09 p.m.

The skies may be gray, but the interior of Sammamish City Hall has a little bit more color since the installation of a set of art pieces dedicated to female laborers in India.

Several works by Fall City artist Donald Fels will be on display through March 29. The pieces are billboard-style paintings that depict both the squalor and enduring pride of low-caste women who come from the poorer areas of the Tamil Nadu to haul dirt and rubble around construction sites in the province of Kerala for six months at a time.

“Essentially these Tamil women take the place of donkeys and are used extensively as dirt and rubble carriers in and out of construction sites,” according to a city press release. “Fels was struck by the physical and psychological strength of these women, despite, or perhaps because of, their very difficult lives.”

Fels, a Fulbright fellow and trustee at the Henry Art Gallery, who is currently working in Paris, produced the art following a 2004 trip to India in which he worked with traditional billboard painters. Fels befriended some of the women at a construction site, and they allowed him to take pictures, according to a Sammamish Arts Commission press release. Those pictures were then translated into colorful billboard-style paintings.

Barbara Jirsa, a Sammamish arts commissioner who helped organize the exhibition, said she was delighted that Fels allowed his work to be presented in Sammamish. Though the reality of the womens’ position in life is stark, Jirsa said the paintings show the laborers sense of self-respect for the work they are doing.

“There’s an amazing amount of pride in what they do,” Jirsa said. “This is hard physical labor they are doing, yet they have an honor in doing the work.”

Fels’ web site can be found at www.artisthinker.com.

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