Get to Know our Instructors: Rohini Sen

Fall has officially begun in Los Angeles and LAAFA is bringing this new series called “Get To Know Our Instructors”, where we ask our amazing, current instructors questions to get to know them a little better. We will ask questions about their line of work, but most importantly questions about how they see themselves in the spectrum of the art world.

For this post, I have interviewed our recent LAAFA alumna and now Extension Class instructor, Rohini Sen. She is also currently working with us at LAAFA as the Admissions Assistant. Below is a list of questions that will help us understand the creative mind of Rohini:

Rohini in front of her drawing “Chinook” displayed in the California Art Clubs 107th Gold Metal Exhibition.

  • What was your experience like as a student here at LAAFA?

Studying at LAAFA was the intensive and immersive experience I was looking for. I knew that this course of study would really push my growth as an artist, challenge the habits I had built that weren’t getting me anywhere, and also teach me a world of knowledge that I wasn’t even aware of. I was also able to make connections within the artist’s network here that just would not have been possible in another country.

  • What is your preferred method or medium?

In terms of drawing, I absolutely love charcoal! The subtle nuances you can achieve, the drama, the emotion you can create, it’s all exciting to me. In terms of painting, oil medium is always my preferred choice. In terms of painting, I am totally captivated by oils. Working in oils challenges me to no end, but it is still the most rewarding medium.

“Mysteries” by Rohini Sen

  • Being international and especially as a woman and a woman of color, what have been some challenges for you as an artist in the United States?

As an international artist, everything just feels foreign, so even after 4 years of living here there is still some lost in translation issues … and I speak English!  But the comfort and familiarity in surroundings, and networks etc, don’t compare to the discovery and exploration that I can choose to experience here. I would not grow as an artist without them!

I feel very privileged to be an artist and a woman of color in this time of history. I’m aware of the challenges that could arise in time and the undercurrent that goes unspoken, but I honestly have not experienced anything overt that would deter my resolve as an artist. If anything, it would serve to fuel me further towards the fire to carry on.

  • What are some projects that you are currently working on?

I am working on a group of paintings and drawings that center around the extinct and endangered of the earth. The connection of the indigenous people groups, the animals and the land.

“Chinook” by Rohini Sen

  • What advice do you have for current or future students of LAAFA looking to make it into the art world?

Take all the opportunities you can while you are here. Volunteer, sit in on extra classes, go to events. When you have instructor time, ask specific questions pertaining to your work that will help with your personal vision as an artist. If you don’t know what that is, take time to figure it out, and invite your peers and instructors to offer critical feedback. Think beyond school, even before or while you are in it.

 

Holy Psychedelic Family

For this blog post, I’m bringing attention to the forgotten art of restoration botched by, believe it or not, old Spanish ladies. One might even think it is an ongoing trend, but in their defense, they were just doing the best they could with the limited resources available to them. What I am talking about is the recent “restoration” of a 15th century statue of the Virgin Mary by María Luisa Menéndez, a local woman in Asturias, Spain.

At left, the 15th-century statue of Virgin Mary before being “restored” (right) by a local woman in Asturias, Spain. Photo DSF/AFP/Getty Images.

As a local tobacco shop owner, María took the lead in giving the 15th-century sculptures of Mary, Saint Anne, baby Jesus, Saint Peter and a second Virgin Mary a neon makeover with fresh eyeliner and lipstick. “I’m not a professional painter but I’ve always liked painting and the statues really needed painting,” she told El Comercio. “I painted them as best I could using what I thought were the right colors. The neighbors liked them too. Ask around here and you’ll find out.” She also made it very clear that she had received permission from the local clergy to do so according to local media reports.

Apparently local news outlets did find some locals in support of Maria, but then again, the town only has 16 residents. The regional minister for culture and education in Asturias, Genaro Alonso, however, fully disagrees, calling the amateur work more “a vengeance than a restoration,” according to the newspaper La Voz de Asturias.

To make things even more interesting, when people started researching these statues, they found out that apparently they had been restored by professionals only 15 years earlier! But their reason for not painting them as Maria did? The wooden family had never been painted in the first place. Upon examining the damage,  Luis Suárez Saro who was the original restorer said that, “They’ve used the kind of industrial enamel paint they sell for painting anything and absolutely garish and absurd colors. The result is just staggering. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.” he told the Guardian. An infrared examination will be undertaken by Saro to determine just how much damage has been done and if it can be reversed.

But of course, this isn’t the first time the art world has seen this kind of murder. Back in June of this year, a Spanish art teacher tried to restore a 16th-century statue of Saint George on horseback from the Church of San Miguel de Estella in Navarre, Spain.

Before and after a misguided restoration on the statue of St. George at Navarre, Spain’s Church of San Miguel de Estella. Photo via Twitter.

A cartoonish makeover nonetheless that many began to draw comparisons to Hergé’s comic book character Tintin:

And then there was the mother (or father, in this case) of all botched historical art works – one that even made it as a skit on SNL – the Ecce Homo incident of 2012 in which 83-year-old Cecilia Giménez decided to give an almost century-old fresco of Jesus Christ a makeover from her local church in Borja, Spain.

Before and after restoration to Ecce Homo in 2012.

Why are these historical art works left to the hands of these amateur Spanish women? The answer lies within the church institutions and artworks themselves. Many of these artworks that were commissioned by churches centuries ago never once thought about the longevity of these artworks. Over the years they are exposed to different elements that rapidly speed up process of deterioration. These small town churches with only about 1,000-10,000 residents barely have enough money to fund themselves and therefore seek humble volunteer services of its residents to help with maintenance of their church. So when the church notices an artwork or statue that needs a little pick-me-up, they soon find out how much professional restorers/conservators charge for their services. Having no money whatsoever, the church/clergy then looks upon the humble volunteer services of its residents and hires who they see “fit.” That is how you then end up with these three masterful artworks that should honestly have their own display cases in the Museum of Failure.

Meme of Bob Ross with “Beast Jesus” as his painting.