Sixth Annual IAAC 2009 Erasing Borders Exhibition of Contemporary
Indian Art of the Diaspora

Neil Chowdhury

Neil Chowdhury

Artist Statement

Waking From Dreams of India

This work tells the story of my lifelong dream of exploring India, the land of my father's birth. He died without telling me much about the culture in which he grew up or the story of his early life there. Growing up in the United States, isolated from Indian culture fostered the cultivation of imaginative fantasy about the land of my ancestry. My knowledge of India ripened from exoticized Western media accounts. None of this prepared me for the discovery of the circumstances that drove my father away from his family as a teenager, or the actual masala mix of complexity, misery and beauty of contemporary India that I finally had the opportunity to see for myself. Having now made several trips, and collected a wealth of photographic images, videotape, and journal writings, I am shaping this material into a body of work that connects and contrasts my youthful fantasies of India with my adult experience building a relationship with the land of my ancestry. I hope to symbolize the merging of the actual lived journey with the expectations I carried for half a lifetime.

I merge images from different times and places to juxtapose ancient and modern, mythical and real, imagined and lived. I collage appropriated popular Indian "calendar art" imagery of Hindu deities into my photographs. In bringing this storied imagery into the contemporary world, I am referencing contemporary clashes of values and cultures that are occurring on the subcontinent. By removing these printed gods from spiritual contemplation in sylvan glades and temples, and bringing them into the chaotic capitalist hurly burly that is contemporary India, I want to show how the Hindu pantheon, representing an imperturbable and entirely non-western view of reality really do walk the streets of postmodern India. Their presence is palpable in the integration of spirituality into the country's daily life. India also worships newer Deities with as much fervor as the old. The loosening of government control on foreign investment in the early 90's led to a continuing economic boom in India and the meteoric rise of a huge new middle class. Western materialism and the mass appeal of flavor-of-the-month Bollywood icons have added another vibrant layer to India's visual culture. The iconography of consumerism and media celebrity often borrows from that of the ancient gods. These recent manifestations of India's striving for an earthly paradise have also found a place in my art.

As a child of mixed British and Indian heritage, I witnessed and took part in post-colonial battles playing themselves out on a domestic scale. For me, the complex history of these images signifies the emergence of my own identity, a slow process of assimilating influences from both cultures. My use of these images brings them back to their original function as a kind of subversive bridge between cultures, with the understanding that part of their richness arises from the multiple meanings that are doomed to different interpretations by individuals on either side of the east-west divide. Finding some way to reconcile these differing perspectives inspires this creative project.


Neil Chowdhury is an artist working in photography and digital media. His work explores the relationships between individuals, their societies, and environments in different cultures. Currently he is working on a project exploring his Indian heritage, entitled "Waking from Dreams of India". Mr. Chowdhury is an assistant professor and director of the photography program at Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, New York. He has also taught at Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, and the University of Washington, Seattle. He received his MFA in photography at the University of Washington. Mr. Chowdhury also frequently collaborates with other artists, including THE LAB, a digital media collective, on digital video installations. His photography and digital video works have been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad


  • University of Washington, 2001 MFA Photography. Emphasis on digital Imaging, digital video
  • Fairhaven College, Western Washington University, 1990 BA Photography
  • Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI 1987 AS Photojournalism, Summa cum Laude


  • NYFA Strategic Opportunity Grant, Feb 2008, New York Foundation for the Arts Strategic Opportunities Stipend to produce the India Interpreted exhibition at the Kirkland Arts Center, Clinton, NY, Feb 2008
  • Garry B Fritz Imagemaker Award, March 2005 for best first time imagemaker presentation with outstanding achievement, Society for Photographic Education National Conference, Portland, OR
  • Zayed University Professional Development Grant for Basic Research, December 2005. For travel, research in India
  • Zayed University Professional Development Grant for Conference Participation, December 2004. For SPE Conference presentation.
  • University of Washington School of Art Marsh Merit Scholarship, Seattle, WA, fall 2000
  • University of Washington Art Department-CARTAH Recruitment Scholarship, Seattle, WA, 2000,
  • Lansing Community College, Lansing, MI, fall 1986, full tuition scholarship for academic excellence. Dean's list

Residencies, Presentations

  • Galichnik Art Colony, August 2007, Galichnik, Macedonia, Artist’s residency
  • Society for Photographic Education 44th National Conference, March 2007, Miami, Florida, conference lecture, Teaching Photography in Dubai: An Emerging Regional Photo Scene in the UAE
  • 2006 Wheeler Conference on World Affairs, Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, NY, September, 2006 conference presentation: Intercultural Understanding in the Aftermath
  • Mexican International Family Strengths Conference, Cuernavaca, Mexico, June 2005, peer reviewed paper, student video presented in collaboration with Anita Sani, Cultural Globalization and Family Challenges in the United Arab Emirates
  • Society for Photographic Education National Conference, Portland, OR March, 2005 competitive peer reviewed artist’s lecture: Waking from Dreams of India
  • Can Serraut International Arts Center, Barcelona, Spain, July-August 2004. Artist’s residency
  • Cholamandal Artists' Village, Chennai, India, January 2002. Artist's residency


  • Jorgenson Gallery, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CN, October 2008, Regarding India, curated by Katherine Meyers and Barry Rosenberg
  • Northlight Gallery, Arizona State University, September 2008, Multi Cultural Caucus Exhibition, curated by Ariel Shanberg
  • Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY, June 2008, The Object and Beyond: 2008 Everson Biennial, Biennial group exhibition curated by Edward Winkleman
  • Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Auburn NY, July 2008, Made in NY 2008 Group Exhibition curated By Jen Pepper and John McQueen
  • Kirkland Art Center, February, 2008, India Interpreted, two person exhibition with Barry Perlus, curtated by Mary Murray, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute
  • Farmworks, Cazenovia, NY, October 2007, Collaborative exhibition with Jen Pepper, in association with NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Critz Farms, SUNY ESF, Matthew Potteinger, Cazenovia Area Community Development Association and Natalia Mount
  • Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, Auburn, NY, August, 2007, Made in New York, group exhibition curated by Buzz Spector and Michael Sickler, pinhole photography
  • Photomedia Center, Erie, PA, 2007, Open Juried Exhibition, digital montage from Waking from Dreams of India
  • CAS Gallery of the University of Miami, March 2007, SPE Multicultural Caucus Exhibition, juried group exhibition, curated by Miriam Romais, Waking From Dreams of India, digital photomontages
  • Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR 2007, Third Annual Ray Warren Multicultural Symposium Exhibition, Video, You're so Smart, collaboration with Françoise Duresse
  • Cazenovia College Art Gallery, Cazenovia, NY, January 2007, Annual Faculty Exhibition, digital photography
  • Cazenovia College Art Gallery, Cazenovia, NY, October 2006, Photo Narrative, group exhibition by invitation, curated by Jennifer Pepper. Waking From Dreams of India digital photo collages
  • Bamboo Lane Gallery, Los Angeles CA, July 2006, Group show by invitation, featuring photographers from the 2006 Art Wallah Festival
  • Art Wallah Festival, Los Angeles, CA, June 2006, juried by invitation, Waking from Dreams of India, digital photo collages
  • VIII Salón Internacional de Arte Digital, Havana, Cuba, June 2006. Metropolis, Collaborative video work with LABTEST
  • Frontal Flatness, April 2006, Seattle, WA group exhibition at W Hotel, curated by Dino Martini. Mexican Time Lapse, video installation
  • File Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 2005. Juried by invitation. Metropolis, a collaborative video installation with LABTEST
  • Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, September 2005, Snap to Grid! Group exhibition, digital photography
  • Les Rencontres d'Arles, HypeGallery, Arles, France, July 2005, group exhibition, digital photography
  • Chashama Gallery, New York, NY, April 2005. Contributed to collaborative video installation juried by invitation Labtest: Transmission 42nd St.
  • Overground Gallery, Abu Dhabi, UAE, December 2004, Solo Exhibition, digital photography and digital video installation: Waking from Dreams of India
  • File Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 2004. Labtest: Transmission, a collaborative video installation with LABTEST at the Hipersonica live performance event
  • Abu Dhabi Cultural Center, Abu Dhabi, UAE, June 2004, Zayed University Faculty group exhibition. Digital photography
  • Total Arts, Dubai, UAE, May 2004, Zayed University Faculty group exhibition. Digital photography
  • Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL, March 2003. Masses Video Installation shown as adjunct to the Paul Berger Beyond Digital Novelty retrospective exhibition, curated by Rod Slemmons, Director CMCP
  • Berozkina Gallery, Kirkland, WA September 2001. Violent Movie Deaths, digital images in-group exhibition juried by invitation, Twelve Northwest Masters
  • Consolidated Works, Seattle, WA August 2001. Return to Babylon video installation shown in Dandelion Productions Dimension Elevator immersive four channel video environment. Juried by invitation. Consolidated Works, Seattle, WA July 2001. Return to Babylon video installation shown in Dandelion Productions Dimension Elevator immersive four channel video environment. Juried by invitation.
  • Phoenix Festival, Klickitat, OR July 2001 Masses video installation shown in Dandelion Productions' Dimension Elevator immersive four channel video environment. Juried by invitation.
  • Vital Five Productions, Seattle, WA June 2001 Before and After: Juried group photography exhibition.
    Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, May 2001. Masters of Fine Arts thesis exhibition: Masses, Multi channel digital video and photography installation
  • Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, spring 2000, juried by invitation. Collaborated with video installation artist Tony Oursler for The Empty Cabinet exhibition. Digital video content
  • Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, December 2000 juried by invitation. Terraform1: Digital multimedia collaborative installation
  • The Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, November 2000, Works on Paper juried competition, exhibition
  • Center on Contemporary Art (COCA), Seattle, WA, June 2000. Video piece Take Back the Streets included in The Whole World Is Watching juried group exhibition
  • Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, March 2000, the Pacific Northwest Annual Unjuried Artist Slide exhibition
  • Photo Circle Gallery, Seattle, WA, February 2000, Pushpin Invitational group exhibition.
  • The Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, January 2000, MFA Works in Progress. Juried group exhibition
  • The Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, November 1999, Works on Paper. Juried competition
  • Zoots, Detroit, MI, November 1996. Solo exhibition
  • Quicksilver Gallery, Bellingham, WA, 1990. Solo exhibition
  • Fairhaven College, Bellingham, WA, June 1989. Solo exhibition
  • Geneva Gallery, Bellingham, WA, 1988. Solo exhibition
  • Benham Gallery, Seattle, WA, February 1988. Solo exhibition

Professional Experience:

  • Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, NY August 2006-Present. Assistant professor, photography, Division of Art and Design, Director of Photography Program
  • Zayed University, Dubai, UAE, August 2003-June 2006. Assistant professor, Art and Design Department
  • College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI October-June, 2003. Adjunct faculty, Photography Department. Developed course syllabus and taught three sections of digital photography courses
  • Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities CARTAH University of Washington, Seattle, WA September 1999 to June 2001. Graduate Student Assistant, digital imaging and digital video consultant
  • University of Washington, Seattle, WA, summer 2000. Instructor of Record. Art 240, Basic Photography
  • Ford Motor Company Creative Photographic Unit, Dearborn, MI, 1994 to 1999 (Automotive Support Group Agency) Technical and creative photographer. studio photo illustrations, executive portraiture, large group portraits, photographic documentation of manufacturing, design and research facilities. Photos used for research and development, publications, presentations, trade show display, promotion, public relations, recruiting materials
  • Ford Motor Company Photo Instrumentation Unit, Dearborn, MI, 1997 to 1999. Automotive Support Group Agency. Photo instrumentation photographer documenting crash tests at Ford Proving Grounds Crash Barrier facility with multiple high-speed 16mm film cameras and digital still photography. High-speed film and digital still documentation of hyge and via sled component testing at Ford's Safety Lab

Professional Affiliations:

  • College Art Association
  • Society for Photographic Education

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