We recently had the opportunity to interview Fairgrounds St. Pete FLORIDARAMA Artist Saumitra Chandratreya. His diorama Consumed by Everglades, features iconic Florida elements that depict an abstract cautionary tale of an alternate future for the Everglades.
Saumitra Chandratreya is a fiber-installation artist who lives in St. Pete, FL and Chicago, IL. He was born in Mumbai and he considers Bangalore, India his other home. He graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2017 with a Master of Design in Fashion, Body and Garment. He has a BFA in Textile Design from the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India. Saumitra was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from St. Pete Arts Alliance in 2020, Emerging Artist Grants from Creative Pinellas in 2018 and he was one of the emerging artists at the 2019 Gasparilla Festival of Arts. In addition, he was one of the selected artists for the inaugural Qinfolk Festival in Ithaca, NY and a finalist exhibited at the Union League Club of Chicago for Luminarts Cultural Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship Show. He was awarded the Shapiro Graduate research fellowship at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was nominated by his department for the James Nelson Raymond Fellowship. Saumitra’s works have been collected both nationally and internationally and his art has been written about extensively in the local media.
Read on to learn more about what the experience of being part of our inaugural exhibit is like for him!
What do you want the public to take away from experiencing the FLORIDARAMA diorama you have created for Fairgrounds St. Pete?
SAUMITRA CHANDRATREYA: When I was thinking about the subject and theme for my diorama, I wanted to create a small world inside the confines of the given space. I usually work pretty large, so working on a smaller scale and within the constraints was a challenge.
I depict a scene in the future where we have left the Florida peninsula and the Everglades have taken over the state. The fauna have adopted our lifestyle and there are palm trees growing upside down in the sky. I show alligators carrying sugar packets which represents the presence of the sugar industry in the Everglades.
I want people to think about Florida’s wetlands. They are essential for our survival. We need to protect them with everything we can because if they are gone, our current environment is doomed. I have created my diorama with mostly plastic objects that are readymade. It’s an on the nose discussion about material culture and capitalism.
What about being a part of Fairgrounds St. Pete’s inaugural exhibition is most exciting to you?
SC: There are a couple of things actually. I was very excited about getting to make this diorama; I like challenging myself by dabbling in different mediums and getting to create this diorama was a great way to flex my creative muscle to work with ready-made objects.
Since this experience is a novel idea in the Tampa Bay arts scene, I feel really good about an arts destination as exciting as Fairgrounds St. Pete. It’s great to be a part of this amazing adventure and to be able to have my art displayed to an audience that may not see it otherwise, due to lack of access, awareness, etcetera.
Who or what inspired your Fairgrounds St. Pete FLORIDARAMA?
SC: I have been interested in creating art that points to the effects of climate change and our hand in turbo-charging (pun intended) the heating of the planet’s environment. Ever since I moved to Florida, I have been interested in the Everglades and how they affect the overall climate in the state and how their destruction could lead to a massive catastrophe. The materials used in the diorama are a comment on my own chronic dependence on online shopping.
What is the most significant influence in your art practice?
SC: Nick Cave, Nari Ward, Sheila Gupta, Sheila Hicks, William Morris, Felix Gonzalez Torres and the Contemporary Indian craftspeople.
Besides Fairgrounds St. Pete, do you have an upcoming project you’d like to share?
SC: I have an ongoing project with my friend, Kevin Mooney, titled Secret Language of Intimacy. I am part of the Mize Gallery 7 years of Shine show that opens on October 22 and the Creative Pinellas’ Arts Annual in November. Also, I’m a member of the Education Committee for the Warehouse Arts District Association and we do monthly events that are geared towards the community.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
SC: I would say to younger Saumitra to never take a no for an answer, career wise. To fight to make a space in the art world wherever they are, with whatever tools they have and whatever medium they choose. To always believe in themselves and to find the acceptance for who they are within themselves as early as they can.
What is your favorite FL destination or landmark?
SC: Miami – I know this is a cliché answer, but being in Miami feels like being in Mumbai, where I grew up and it truly feels like home.