Salma Arastu was born in the city of Ajmer, Rajasthan, a historic desert town in Northwestern India in 1950. She now lives and works in Emeryville, in Alameda County, in the Bay Area.
From childhood she had an interest in drawing and painting and she was encouraged by her family and her school teachers to take up art. In her words, " I felt a need to express and the need to reach out. I felt that I have to say something important and I used to doodle around everywhere."
She has been painting for more than thirty years, since earning her degrees in Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts and Architecture, Jawaharlal University, Hyderabad, in 1971 and later in 1974 from the MS University in Baroda, India.
Her work with continuous and lyrical line is influenced by her native culture and her residence in Iran and Kuwait City before immigrating to the US in 1986.
Born into the Sindhi and Hindu traditions in her native India, she later embraced Islam through her marriage. At birth, Ms. Arastu was given the life-defining challenge of a left hand without fingers. Being very spiritual by nature and by the upbringing by her mother, she realized the unity that was possible among all people. She was able to transcend barriers often set forth in the traditions of religion, culture and the cultural perceptions of handicaps. Her personal triumphs have been defined and shaped by the simple principle of faith in The Divine, the compelling force which has guided her life and work. As a woman, a Hindu, a Muslim and a multi-cultural artist and a mother, she sees a unique opportunity to create harmony and world transformation through the expression of the Universal in her art.
- She has had more than 40 exhibitions of her work in India, the USA and Europe. Many of her works are in private and public collections --- like the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad, the museum of Modern Art, New Delhi, the Harrisburg Art Museum, the Allentown Art Museum and the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company.
- In 2008, the Alameda County commissioned Salma for three paintings which are now in the Collection of the County of Alameda.
- In December 2008, her new book of art and poems in English was published by Half Full Press from Oakland California in their series of Emerging American Artists program. The book is titled "The Lyrical line" and has more than 100 images of her works from last 10 years. About her book Salma says: "My paintings celebrate life. In this art book I have tried to trace with lines and color a trajectory of the human emotions that all of us feel no matter where we are from and what our individual situations are.
- In 2005, a documentary "The Story of the Lyrical Line", about her work and life was produced and distributed by Sommaiyah films from Phoenix, Arizona.
- In the summer of 2002 Salma won a (6) week Artist-in-Residence Award. She lived and worked in Swabisch Gumund, in southern Germany where she was hosted by a German family and exhibited her work in her capacity as a goodwill ambassador for the sister city, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
- First place in painting at North Eastern Regional art show at Marywood University, Scranton, Pennsylvania.
- In addition to her prolific painting, Salma has also authored several published works of free verse and short stories in her native Hindi. Her collection of poems "Dard Ki Seedhiyan" (Exploring Steps in the realm of Pain) in Hindi language was published in 1981 with a grant from Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Kala (Literary Arts) Academy, Hyderabad, India.
- Shortly after arriving in the US, she also became an entrepreneur founding Your True Greetings, a successful greeting card company that uses her paintings and calligraphy to serve the needs of Muslim communities in the US, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom.
In her words, "Through my art I am attempting to create a visual language in which the magic of communication plays a central role. My subjects include people who, whatever they do, they do together. They initiate each other, they celebrate together, they grieve together, they pray together. In our communities it is important that we understand each other, accept each other with our differences and emerge as loving and caring communities for a successful and peaceful world."