By Manasi Nene
We chanced across the Badass Indian Pinups series by Nimisha Bhanot, a Canadian-Indian artist and we’re quite in awe. Every painting in the series is inspired by two different women — a sanskaari housewife, and a typical pin-up girl from the 1950s.
Interested in art even as a child, Bhanot completed her BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design with an undergraduate thesis in drawing and painting. In a lot of her recent work, she focuses on South Asian women, a group she feels isn’t able to accurately represent themselves anywhere. This series was inspired by the pin-up girls from the 1950s, whose confidence and sexuality she found exciting, but could never see reflected in Indian or South Asian women.
The titles that Bhanot gives her paintings are clearly reflective of her characters. For example, her paintings have delightful titles like ‘Not Your Mom’s Bahu’, ‘Talking Back With The Selfie Gaze’ and ‘Sweeping Patriarchy Under The Rug’.
“I would say it was a combination of not being able to see myself in this 50s American vintage art featuring all white women,” says Bhanot, “and my inner rage of how women are policed in our culture for having sexual confidence”. Her women are inspired by people she sees every day, her friends, herself and her life, and even movies and pop culture.
Bhanot is acutely aware of the male gaze that follows the discussion of women being comfortable in their own skin. This work, she says, explores the female gaze. “They know they are being judged by the male gaze, by internalised misogyny which exists and they don’t care.”
More of Bhanot’s work can be found on her website. She’s working on even more pin-ups, and she’s excited for her upcoming series of paintings, which will deal with body image.