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Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  October 7, 2020

Artist Description:

                           STAR of the north! whose steadfast ray

                          Pierces the sable pall of night,

                           Forever pointing out the way

                          That leads to freedom’s hallowed light: 

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

I've always been drawn to contrasts. Perhaps that’s because I’m drawn to the extremes of things. Only by seeing something’s extremes can you gauge its length, its breadth, everything it contains. Contrast is not only the most important and obvious visual aspect of Indrani Mitra’s fabulous piece, Stargazer, but at least judging from the fraction of Mitra’s oeuvre which I can see on Rarible (where Stargazer was minted), it’s an important part of the artist’s overall works. I’m struck by the dichotomy between pieces swathed in color, others with hyper evident digital brush strokes, some almost cubist in their carnival-like composition, and pieces like Stargazer: so simple, so clean, so self-contained, so universal. The former are the more populous in Mitra’s oeuvre, but that only makes the odd black-and-white piece all the more special. And Stargazer is special. There’s a quote I love by the great writer Zora Neale Hurston with which she begins her brilliant novel Their Eyes Were Watching God: “Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.” She’s talking about desire, and how perfect things seem when we do not know them. Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board…Well, look now to the figure at the center of Stargazer, the outlined woman gazing up at the sky. If ships at a distance carry every man’s wish, then what do the faraway stars possess? What is it the Stargazer sees?

Don’t let the deceptively simple composition of Stargazer fool you, this is a piece of ideas. Or, you know what, maybe it is no act. Simplicity and complexity are A) matters of perspective and, B) neither is better than the other. There’s a reason people still read The Little Prince (which this piece so desperately reminds me of), even though few (if anyone) actually knows, well, what the hell it’s even about. There’s a malleable universality to that book which Stargazer seems to share, or at leas is highly influenced by. Stargazer centers around a woman’s outlined-in-white, hand-drawn figure —her hair sweeping down her back, her arms at her sides, the hem of her dress blown back by phantom, implied wind— looking up into a dark sky at the twinkling stars therein. A lesser artist might animate those stars, bringing in the corrupting visual style of a different world, but not Mitra. 12 diamond-like stars, in the same white hue as everything else is drawn from, hang in the sky, one huge, others tiny. The girl herself stands upon what might be a cliff or what might be a great rock. It is drawn over in horizontal lines to create the illusion of texture. It’s actually quite interesting, this rock, as the shading of the lines —whether intentionally or not— tricks us into seeing things: shapes, polygons, who knows?

But as mentioned, the compositional totality of the piece is more than the sum of its parts. Despite its simplicity —or perhaps even because of its simplicity— the universal longing of the figure is accentuated in a way that any person, be they child or deathbed decagenarian, could understand. That feeling of staring at something so vast. And facing your own therefore insignificance. Looking up at the sky and feeling longing, pain, hope, fear, beauty, regret, connection, divinity, etc. In the lack of clarity Mitra provides us, we paint our own experiences onto the piece. It is the white-lined figure who stands upon the drawn rock, but it is our wishes and dreams and memories which are imprinted onto the sky she stares at. I am reminded of pieces like Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Casper David Friedrich, a piece which so communicates the limitlessness of possibility and the pioneering spirit as a figure stands haughtily and high upon a rock, looking out at an untamed world. I’ve always felt in that artwork a stifled desire to tame an unruly land myself. Stargazer has a similar, but inverse effect. It is emptiness Mitra communicates in the sky above the gazer. It cannot be tamed because it cannot be conceived, understood, or appreciated in its fullness. The figure will always be looking on, impotent, and the sky will always be spread over her, vast and omnipotent.

That is not to say there are negative implications here; I actually feel that “hope” is the most strongly-communicated emotion. But like so much of these universal moments and experiences, that which is captured in Stargazer is somewhat blank and somewhat contradictory. Not just because we imprint ourselves and experiences upon the simple design, but because hope and hopelessness are intrinsically connected: One requires the other to exist. And with a piece as devoid of specific guiding information as Stargazer, both aforementioned emotions —and the host of others which follow their paradigm— exist at once, in liminal states of being conjured and being vanished. In that way, the piece exhibits much movement despite its lack of animation. It shifts, changing even before our own eyes, and god forbid we should close out the tab and reopen it, we may find ourselves looking at a quite different image. Not the girl; the girl always stays the same. But the sky, the empty empty sky, and all the things it might, just might, contain.

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