Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

An Indian from India

As an immigrant, I am often questioned about where I am “really from.” When I say that
I am Indian, I often have to clarify that I am an Indian from India. It seems strange that all
this confusion started because Christopher Columbus thought he had found the Indies and
called the native people of America collectively as Indians.

In this portfolio, I look at the other “Indian.” I play on my own “otherness,” using
photographs of Native Americans from the Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth
Century that perpetuated and reinforced stereotypes paired with self-portraits. I find
similarities in how nineteenth and early twentieth century photographers of Native
Americans looked at what they called the primitive natives, similar to the colonial gaze
of the Nineteenth century British photographers working in India.

About the Artist

Artist Website

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew‘s photo-based artwork mines issues of identity, immigration and inter-generational memory with the insights of a woman who has twice lived the immigrant experience. Matthew’s work takes advantage of the viewer’s uncertainty between the reality of photography and it’s manipulation through digital tools to get the viewer to reexamine and construct parallel identities and histories.

Matthew’s recent solo exhibitions include the Royal Ontario Museum, Nuit Blanche Toronto, and sepiaEYE, nyc. Matthew has also exhibited her work at the RISD Museum, Newark Art Museum, MFA Boston, San Jose Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts (TX), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), 2018 Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Fotofest Biennial 2018, Guangzhou Photo Biennial 2009 as well as at the Smithsonian.

Grants and fellowships that have supported her work include a MacColl Johnson, John Guttman, two Fulbright Fellowships and grants from the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts. In addition, she has been an artist in residence at Yaddo and MacDowell.

As Holland Cotter of the New York Times wrote about her 2016 solo exhibition at sepiaEYE in New York “…The mostly album-size photographs in this compact but far-ranging gallery survey are about the intensities and confusions of a cultural mixing that makes the artist, psychologically, both a global citizen and an outsider, at home and in transit, wherever she is. And it’s about photography as document and fiction: souvenir, re-enactment and imaginative projection. A beautiful show that could too easily slip away.”

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew is Professor of Art at the University of Rhode Island and Director of the URI Center for the Humanities. Matthew is represented by sepiaEYE, NYC.