The Real Depth Behind Nimisha Bhanot’s Badass Pinups

September 24, 2017 Nila Choudhury     KissMeImNila

Nimisha Bhanot is an Indo-Canadian artist who has gained popularity for her unique portrayal of Indian women. Bhanot is a talented painter with a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Toronto. Her “Badass Indian Pinup” series has gone viral—and rightly so, it’s brilliant!

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Bhanot basically blended her Indian and Canadian backgrounds to create pin-up versions of South Asian women. Sure, her portrayal of Indian women is ridiculously fierce—but these badass paintings have so much depth and meaning. Bhanot empowers women with her work, seduces the rules of society with her art, uses pop culture to depict the changing times and shows the world the many layers of a powerful desi girl. She portrays both the cultural and modern sides of her women with accessories like cigars, cigarettes, a glass of wine, henna, tattoos, Indian jewelry and both western and South Asian attire.

Pin-up models were traditionally sexy and glamorous, by embodying this style, Bhanot shows the world a sexually liberated and independent Indian woman—things the South Asian society can’t handle. A “sexy” vibe from a desi girl is always looked at negatively. A “good girl” is supposed to be obedient, shy, and silent, not the vibrant, colorful, free souls they actually are.

Thankfully we have Bhanot “Ironing Out Wrinkles in Your Misogyny” with her art. (See what I did there, #ArtTitleReference)

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There are some pieces like this “Not Your Mom’s Bahu,” that has gone viral. It was originally commissioned by Indian-American rapper Kaly—ever noticed the”Kaly” tattoo on the bride’s chest? This painting gives all desi girls the feels for its intense accuracy but that’s not where Bhanot’s talents end.

Badass Indian Pinups

Bhanot’s “Badass Indian Women” series is brilliantly progressive in depicting Indian women of today. She not only paints her women as sexy creatures with tattoos, and revealing clothing, but their skin tone is a natural color. Bhanot has painted all shades of brown, portraying her pin-up Indian girls as they are, not the doodh colored beauty queens society expects us to be.

We are intelligent, strong, smoking, drinking, tire-changing rani’s…

We are talented Cricket loving athletes…

And sexy Karva Chauth keeping wives all at the same time.

Side note: I’m madly in love with this cheeky “Ghar Kab Aa Rahe Ho?” piece—get you a girl who can do both, right?

Badass Brides

Bhanot’s “Badass Brides” series beautifully portrays brides bringing together different cultures. Her first one from an inter-racial marriage where a non-desi girl is dressed as an Indian bride.

Bhanot uses the Indian symbols of marriage like henna, and Indian jewelry to incorporate a little desi flavor to her stunning brides yet keeping it minimal enough to show you a a blend of two cultures equally. She challenges traditional expectations by portraying her brides of an interfaith and bi-cultural universe in a way that accepts both aspects of the cultures depicted in a modern way.

According to Bhanot, the scale and the gaze of her subjects is meant to “confront the traditional Indian patriarchal views on a woman’s freedom to a marriage of her choice.”

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The model’s were first photographed and then Bhanot creatively added her desi girl touches with jewelry, henna, and more, turning them into brides. She’s got her OG bride, Indo-Canadian bride, Indo-Chinese Bride, Indo-African bride and more!

Badass Bahus

Bhanot’s “Badass Bahus” series is inspired by her previous “Badass Indian Pinups” and “Badass Brides,” and is just as stunning as her other collections. The pin-up style continues with a more powerful message this time as she breaks the traditions of treatment of a typical Indian bahu.

Just check out this piece, titled “Serving Looks, Not Nashtha” which was inspired by Gil Elvgren’s “I’m For You” (1958).

The series confronts the patriarchal expectations Indian society has regarding the women in their families, specifically their daughter-in-laws (bahus). The tattoos, revealing clothing and the sexy pin-up style adds a modern touch while pushing the limits of cultural norms and expectations of society.

Her piece “Sweeping Patriarchy Under The Rug” was inspired by artist Gil Elvgren’s “Clean Sweep” (963). It speaks to the “no-effs-given” attitude to bahus today.

South Asian Social Media Icons

Bhanot picked a unique set of Social Media Icons to honor through her art. These are people who were breaking barriers and literally changing the world with their work like Professor Tanya Rawal of the Saree Not Sorry trend. Her models also include poets Alok Vaid-Memon and Janani Balasubramanian, writer Sanam Sindhi and artist Vivek Shraya.

Here’s the result of some of her work, each piece sends a message and each one is just as stunning as the last.

Venus Shraya (2016) Oil and acrylic on canvas, 36×48 inches. For this piece, I have painted Vivek Shraya (@vivekshraya) in a composition that appropriates Titian’s Venus of Urbino. Venus is the Roman goddess of beauty, love and desire but has never been portrayed as a person of colour let alone a trans woman of colour. Here Shraya is laying on a couch just like Venus and is staring back at the viewer with a confident gaze. A bride with one side of her dupatta lifted is a very common pose in South Asian bridal photography, and so, this composition pays homage to a staple depiction of South Asian brides that is familiar to all in the diaspora. However, instead of shying away from the camera like most brides do, Shraya is returning the gaze. I think that trans individuals are too often the subject of the gaze, and it’s really important for them to be the source because it allows them to talk back and normalize trans visibility. By portraying Vivek as Venus, I am equating trans beauty and importance to that of monarchy and the gods, which is exactly how it should be. As Vivek continues to live her life, work hard, make music, art and write she is influencing people everyday by sharing her daily experiences and accomplishments online. This series aims to idolize South Asian social media icons for their unique contributions to diasporic identity. The individuals in this series are all doing the same thing, they are transgressing limitations set by culture, society and gender and through the use of social media, are influencing and creating new communities for acceptance. This painting concludes my Social Media Monarchy series and will be featured alongside works by @angela_aujla_art in a duo show “Returning The Gaze” at @humbergalleries opening October 13 2016! #art #artist #toronto #torontoart #nimishabhanot #vivekshraya #venus #painting #oilpainting #lgbtq #trans #transvisibility #transpoc #genderqueer #potd #wip #love #southasian #fashion #queen #instagood #instadaily #instaart #instagallery #igers #studio #canvas

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Empress of the Runway (2016). Oil on canvas, 36×48 inches. (Still wet!) For this painting I have painted Alok Vaid-Menon of DarkMatter (@darkmatterpoetry) as a runway model in a gorgeous yellow lengha. This piece has been inspired by Sharmila Nair’s ( @sharmila006 ) Mazhavi collection of saris and Winterhalter’s 1854 Empress Eugiene. Nair made headlines earlier this year by featuring trans models on the runway and I loved it but wished there was more representation of nonbinary trans individuals - enter Alok. I wanted a dramatic lengha skirt to match Alok’s confident pose and the searing gaze in their eyes. The composition of the figure is very statuesque, kind of like how models pose at the end of the runway. This piece ties into the social media and South Asian diaspora theme of this series because it pays homage to Alok’s daily celebration of transfemme visibility in NYC and their ability to use poetry, fashion, photography and the gaze to talk back to societal norms. Alok has created an online community for trans POC and their influence is evident in the LGBTQ South Asian community. I see more and more queer and trans POC online sharing art, fashion, activism and finding a place on the Internet to be themselves and it’s AMAZING! Visibility is what diasporic LGTBQ individuals need in order to break through cultural barriers and live authentic lives and Alok delivers!! This is 3/4 paintings to be featured in a duo show with fellow artist @angela_aujla_art titled “Returning The Gaze” happening in TORONTO at @humbergalleries Lakeshore’s L Space. Opening night is October 13, the show runs until October 29, more details to come!! #art #artist #toronto #torontoart #torontoartist #darkmatterpoetry #nimishabhanot #painting #oilpainting #canvas #motif #southasian #fashion #transfemme #lgtbq #transvisibility #poc #nonbinary #pride #portrait #contemporaryart #canadianart #potd #love #instagood #instaart #instadaily #instagallery #igers

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Digital Collage on Women in India

For International Women’s Day this clever artist used cut outs of Hindustani Times articles to create a meaningful digital collage on women in India and their struggles in the modern age. She depicts the current feminist movement in India with rise of communication on taboo subjects like sex, porn, females buying their own contraceptives and more from the female perspective.

We already know Bhanot is a brilliant painter, but clearly she is brilliant at everything she does. Check out one of her digital collages for the special day. She also provides an in-depth explanations of how they came to be and the meaning behind every detail of the collage.

Contemporary Indian Feminism Is A Scroll Away, 2016. Digital collage. 💥💥 Working with some new ideas! This digital collage is a compilation of screenshots archived through my mobile devices using social media applications like Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. In a broader context, it discusses the role of social media in informing a normative framework for cultural identity. Realizing these screenshots into digital collage speaks to the overwhelming way that social media and the Internet inform non-residential Indians of current news in the Indian feminist movement. Images collected include screen shots of women celebrating Holi from Snapchat’s “Holi in India” live event juxtaposed against a photograph of a banner put up in the holy city of Varanasi on Holi, warning women celebrating the religious holiday to be wary of drunk men. Also included are screenshots from Imaan Sheikh’s trending #FeministBollySongs , headlines from Indian news accounts like the Hindustani Times and international social news and entertainment companies like Buzzfeed and the Independent. 💥💥 #art #artist #toronto #torontolife #collage #feministart #indian #feminism #socialmedia #screenshot #nimishabhanot #layers #wip #snapchat #twitter #facebook #holi #diaspora #instagood #instadaily #instagallery #love #potd #contemporaryart #canadianart #indianart #media #culturvation #neon

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Keep up with Nimisha Bhanot’s work on her website.

TAGS: badass bahus, badass brides, badass indian pinups, canadian, , , paintings, pin up

Nila Choudhury

New York born and raised, Nila Choudhury (aka the encyclopedia of useless Bollywood knowledge) is avoiding rishta aunties by obtaining her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.


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