Xenophilia and The Sari Project Showcase at the Fulton Street Collective

Photo Credit: Carla Carrasco Ocampo

By Suman Chhabra, Eye on India Head Blogger

Eye on India currently has two exhibitions at the Fulton Street Collective. I visited both, The Sari Project Showcase and Xenophilia during Sunday’s opening and was amazed by the pieces as well as the transformation of the space itself.

Walking up to the Fulton Street Collective, I was excited that Eye on India had selected such a unique location to house its exhibitions. I joined the other visitors in the parking lot eating tacos from El Jefe’s food truck before going upstairs. The Sari Project Showcase greeted guests who were already listening to the Global Jam and spending time with the artworks of Xenophilia.

The Sari Project Showcase displays pieces designed by Columbia College Fashion students.  The students of Columbia’s Fashion departmentin collaboration with Eye on India Festival created contemporary clothing by transforming saris. The piece by the 2016 Awardee, Rachel Hentrich -a gorgeous jumpsuit -is for view alongside the garments by the 2016 Finalists Devon King, Jill Nobis, Madeline Moore.

Just past the showcase is a brick finish loft space, the gallery hosting the works of 8 Indian artists who live and create in Chicago. Xenophilia is an exhibition of current and former students of the School of Art Institute of Chicago students. The title of the show is critical to the viewers knowledge.

Unlike its more familiar opposite, the term xenophilia is rarely used today, particularly in a global political climate characterized by fear, suspicion and aversion to the other. This exhibition imagines a different reality in which the notion of foreign simply suggests an alternate viewpoint. Xenophilia does not reinforce familiar dichotomies between native-born vs. outsider, center vs. margin, migration vs. stagnation, but instead proposes a new world in which multiple perspectives not only coexist but enhance and amplify each other.”

Curated by Megha Ralapati, the featured artists include Biraaj Dodiya, Alaya Gujral, Khushmi Mehta, Viraj Viral Mithani, Kaveri Raina, Udit Toshniwal, Udita Upadhyaya and Falak Vasa. It was wonderful to spend time with every individual pieceand reflecton the relationship between India and Chicago through them.

The mediums used by the artists were diverse and the scales varied. Upadhyaya’s delicate, gossamer sculptures invited visitors to touch them. I wondered about the family photographed and described by Dodiya, found myself considering my own family and the bonds and discourses shared by all Indian families. Raina’s burlap canvases drew me close as didToshniwal’s charpoy. Both artists’ use of mixed materials was intriguing. Gujral’s fabrics cascaded from the wall while Metha’s stainless steel sculpture seemed to seep sunlight from its carvings. Vasa and Upadhyaya aka kShama’s installation was tucked into a corner, as was the meta documentation of their work. Mithani’s prints, diverse yet tied to each other, served as a beautiful backdrop to the Global Jam artists. Both exhibits at the Fulton Street Collective reflect the multitude of ways in which India and Chicago intersect and influence one another.


Xenophilia and The Sari Project Showcase are open every day from 11am-2pm, and by appointment, through September 24th.


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Eye on India is a young and dynamic organization whose role is to serve as a facilitator and integrator. Promoting appreciation for diverse programming in the cultural landscape of Chicago, the festival’s uniqueness lies in its ability to create and inspire collaboration among various cultural, community and business organizations across Chicago and other cities in the US and India.

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