Suchitra Mattai and Sugar Bound

An Interview

Suchitra Mattai standing in front of “Salvation Islands,” 2018, acrylic and gouache on printed fabric. Image courtesy of the MCA Denver.

Interview by Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Suchitra, how did you become an artist?

That is a great question. I know a lot of artists say this but I think it’s true for many…I’ve always wanted to be an artist and perhaps have always been an artist. My immigrant family did not support that endeavor so I ended up studying math and statistics. I guess I never had role models who were artists. I couldn’t possibly have conceived of how one could be an artist. I entered a P.h.D. program in Art History (focusing on South Asian art) at the University of Pennsylvania and it was a way for me to get back in touch with my roots. Finally, one day, I was in a class and thought “this is ridiculous, what am I doing?” I shouldn’t only be studying art, I should be making it. I always made art through the years, but I would do it as a side project. I would make things in my apartment in New York, but would never show it to people. So, finally I bit the bullet and applied to grad school and since then, it has been so utterly rewarding!

So, how was your family once you got into grad school?

Um, you know, let’s say they are super supportive now. And this is not just an immigrant experience. It is an every person experience…the idea of supporting oneself in art is a hard thing to imagine. For my parents, it wasn’t so much that they didn’t think art was valuable, it was a matter of being practical. So now that they see me doing it…well they probably thought about a decade ago, “well of course, this is going to happen (laughs).” And you have to do what you have to do, eventually. Even if it takes time.

What medium did you first study formally?

In undergrad I was doing a stats/math major, but I was also double majoring in art. So I took a wide range of studio classes then. But your question was what my first medium was. Drawing is at the core of my practice and 2D work in general. Drawing and painting are always at the core. I actually didn’t take a formal painting class until a decade after undergrad. It was all sort of self-taught for a long time. It’s kind of interesting how that works, how you learn through doing. I took a lot of drawing so that informs painting as well. I also thought of myself as a sculptor for a while (laughs). I took a number of post-grad sculpture classes at Pratt Institute…

Read the rest of this interview via the MCA Denver Blog.