“I love to express my ethnicity and culture through my art. I feel creativity is a parallel universe where expressions cannot be contained by hurdles of the real world…As an artist, I find nothing more gratifying than watching paint dry.”

-Durga Ekambaram

Indian-born Durga Ekambaram’s art is different than what you may expect to find in a Sandy, Utah, art studio; it is vibrant and begs to share a story with all passersby. That’s why I was fascinated when I received this article about a local artist whose art is rooted in inspiration far from the valley that it is showcased in.

I was curious about and intrigued by the part she actively plays in teaching our Utah community about a country that Rising Star Outreach cares for so deeply. I imagined the seed she planted in the heart of Salt Lake Valley and couldn’t resist reaching out to her and inviting her to our upcoming event, Summer of Stars. I was equally giddy and shocked when she responded so quickly to my message and accepted my invitation after thanking Rising Star Outreach for the work we do. 

Much to our surprise and gratitude, Durga not only agreed to attend but also offered to do a live painting session during the event and donate the piece. Her generosity and talent lent authenticity and beauty to that wonderful summer evening; people gathered around and were amazed as she used coffee to recreate the stunning Utah landmark. Her incredible work will be auctioned at an upcoming big event!

Durga is from Chennai, a city in India that many of our supporters are already familiar with, as it is the location of our Peery Matriculation School. She remembers and cherishes growing up close to the sea, which she misses now that she is so far away. In that same chapter of her life, she really began to appreciate and engage with the arts. 

Relatably and as with many childhood aspirations, passions were traded for practicality. Durga earned a degree in Engineering and lived in several states after moving to the U.S. with her husband and children. It wasn’t until her move to Utah that she pursued what she considers her “true calling” as an artist.

I fell in love with Utah the moment I saw the mountains. The Utah art scene is vibrant and welcoming to artists of all mediums. I have been able to participate in several art events as an emerging artist, and the vast ocean of opportunities available here inspired me to widen my artistic skills. I started with chalk art and then moved on to murals, upside-down painting, and writing.

While Utah’s beauty was the final nudge Durga needed before taking the plunge into the arts as a career, she still is very much influenced by her heritage and Indian culture. She ventured into chalk art because she recognized the medium’s similarities with the Indian decorative art form, “kolams.” As a young girl, she performed “Bharatanatyam,” a classical South Indian dance, and played the “veena,” a stringed instrument that creates an essential sound in Indian classical music.

Durga further explained, “In India, the art forms and culture blend closely. I would say several [Indian] traditions helped me explore my creativity in many ways. Indian culture and tradition differ [within] each state, and it has taught me to value traditions around the world”.

When I asked her what she hoped people learn or feel from her art, she shared:

I always hope to spread positivity and vibrancy through my art. I would be happy if my art inspires people in some way to pursue their creative side. Working with different mediums like clay, coffee, and eggshells, I always intend to go out of my comfort zone and explore. I intend to spread the same thought of exploring ideas through my art.

Follow Durga on Instagram and Twitter @strokes_durga for a regular dose of inspiration.

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