Siona Benjamin: Lilith in the New World

September 15, 2023–August 4, 2024

Siona Benjamin’s unique perspective as an Indian-American-Jewish citizen has inspired her to create illuminating artworks that represent her transcultural and multicultural narratives. Based in Montclair, New Jersey, for many years (since 2002), Siona Benjamin was raised in Mumbai as a member of the Bene Israel Community, one of India’s three historic Jewish communities. While the rich traditions of Mumbai continue to inform her work, the artist immigrated to the United States in 1986 to pursue her education. She received an MFA in painting and another in Theater set design while in the United States after completing undergraduate art degrees at an art school in Mumbai. She was also awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2011 to India and a second Fulbright in 2017 to Israel. 

For the Montclair Art Museum’s Laurie Art Stairway, Siona is creating a monumental banner measuring 13 feet high x 30 feet wide. The theme is “Lilith in the New World” and is related to a 2008 installation exploring the joys, passions, and anguish of both time-honored and unfairly reviled women of the Hebrew canon. A recurring figure in the artist’s oeuvre, Lilith was the mythological first wife of Adam, who stands as an icon of independence and courage. She has metamorphosed over the years from a cast-out, rebellious wife longing for equality with her husband in Eden and into a feminist figure asking difficult questions about our current times.

Lilith is at the center of this monumental new work, praying for salvation “from their wrath.” The artist has reclaimed this iconic figure by combining styles derived from comic books, Pop art, Bollywood, street graphics, Indian folk images, Persian miniatures, and Hebrew manuscripts. Lilith’s blue skin is “a symbol of being other…a woman of color” like the artist herself. Since coming to America, Siona Benjamin has been pondering the meaning of belonging in her adopted homeland from the multiple perspectives of being South Asian, an immigrant, an American, a woman, and a Jew. 

Siona’s work has been featured in: The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Forward, The Jewish Week, The Boston Globe, Art New England, ArtNews, The Times of India, The Jerusalem Post, and many others.

Image Credit:

Siona Benjamin, Lilith in the New World, 2023, 13 x 30 ft. banner in progress, image courtesy of the artist

All MAM programs are made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Vance Wall Foundation, Partners for Health Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Museum members.

Logos for New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, Partners for Health Foundation, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.