Chitra Ganesh

Chitra Ganesh’s multimedia practice focuses on marginalized figures and narratives from art, history, and literature. In particular, the artist explores the roles and expectations placed on women. Female archetypes—from goddesses to witches—fill her paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, and comic books. Ganesh mines an array of influences in her work, from contemporary social theory to various world mythologies and Bollywood posters. She filters these influences through an aesthetic that is bold, graphic imagery. Ganesh’s work comments on myth, feminism, sex, and erased colonial histories.

Chitra Ganesh (b. 1975) American, Teri Mehfil, 2007, Acrylic on board, 29" x 31"

Ganesh’s artwork is informed by her studies in literature and semiotic theory, and regular travels to India, with particular interest in Indian film and music. Combined with her upbringing in New York City’s far-reaching urban and cultural landscape, these influences taken together yield a distinct perspective. In detailed works, Ganesh combines a vast array of influences including South Asian iconography, science fiction and queer theory, with the visual languages of vintage comics and video games.

Stills from Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

Teri Mehfil references a classic film in the history of Bollywood cinema that is a story of forbidden love with a heart wrenching plot. The title of the painting refers to a popular song from the soundtrack to the film, which was a musical debate between two women on the nature of love. Both women were fighting for the prince’s affections and the prince is supposed to give a rose to the winner of the debate, as referenced by Ganesh in the painting by the row of roses and the thorns around the faces of the women. The back-and-forth performed as a female-duet was apparently rare in Bollywood cinema, and Ganesh depicts the duality of the two women as separate but intertwined.

The FOCUS series features one artwork per month from the Wake Forest University Art Collections. Reflections from students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged. To include your voice in the dialogue, contact

Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art, GC2023.16.1

Gift of Tilton Family Collection