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Both Bhagavad Gita & Quran Speak to the Unity of Humanity & Soul

“Messages in Bhagavad Gita and Quran are the same to me,” says Salma Arastu, an award-winning, internationally exhibited artist based in Berkeley. Her intention in her artwork, adds Arastu, is to express “the universality of humanity” that her Indian heritage and Islamic spirituality inspire. She explains she uses her artistic voice “to break down the barriers that divide to foster peace and understanding” through her paintings, sculpture, calligraphy, and poetry. 

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Arastu has been painting for over 45 years and has held 45 solo exhibitions in the US, India, France, Morocco, and other countries.

Coming up next, is a solo exhibition at the Lindsay Dirkx Brown Art Gallery at the San Ramon Community Center, from March 1-31. 

On display will be two to three paintings from her various series including her latest series on Tiny Creatures-Our Invisible Sustainers (2022) and New Hope-Mycelial Flow (2020-2022)

“We only look at the negative side of microbes. Their life-giving and sustaining properties are many,” opines Arastu.

A painting of fish and masks floating together (image courtesy: Salma Arastu)
Biophilia 1-27″/56″ Acrylics and Pen & Ink on canvas. by Salma Arastu (image courtesy/ Salma Arastu)

Hinduism & Islam Inspire Artwork

Both the Bhagavad Gita and the Quran inspire Arastu’s artistic passion. She was born to a Hindu-Sindhi family from Pakistan who migrated to Rajasthan in India during the partition. After marriage, she embraced Islam and moved to the US in 1986. For the first 20 years, Arastu, her husband, and two children lived in Pennsylvania before moving to California in 2006.

She was born, says Arastu, with a left hand without fingers; a life-defining challenge. However, her faith in God uplifts her faith in her art.

“Seeing the unity of an all-encompassing God, I was able to transcend the barriers often set-forth in the traditions of religion, culture, and the cultural perceptions of handicaps. I am a linear artist. My works are lyrical, spiritual, figurative, and calligraphic. As a visual artist, I seek connection through humanity, soil, and soul. My upcoming exhibition is the first one under the auspices of my non-profit umbrella,” states Arastu.

A group of women standing with a bride (image courtesy: Salma Arastu)
The Bride by Salma Arastu (image courtesy/ Salma Arastu)

Art & spirituality around the world

Her studies and experiences in different cultures around the world influenced her work greatly, says Arastu.

After graduating in Fine Arts from Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, India, she lived and worked in Iran and Kuwait, where she was exposed to a wealth of Islamic arts and Arabic calligraphy. “Calligraphy, miniatures, and the folk art of Islam and the Hindu tradition continue to influence my work today,” tells Arastu.

A selection of abstract paintings by the Bay Area artist Salma Arastu (images: courtesy Salma Arastu)
A selection of magical abstract paintings by the Bay Area artist Salma Arastu (images: courtesy Salma Arastu)

Germany invited Arastu twice, first as a Resident Artist in 2000 at Schwabisch Gmund and again in the Spring of 2011, by the Westphalia Wilhelm University in Münster, Germany to publish her paper “Art Informed by Spirituality” in the publication at the International Symposium: ‘God Loves Beauty: PostModern Views on Religion and Art.

Arastu has presented her work and given talks at Stanford University, Commonwealth of San Francisco, Seattle University, Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, and the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, St. Louis Missouri. Morocco invited her for a one-month Artist Residency Program in March 2018 through Green Olives Art Gallery.

A crowd of women in colorful sarees sitting on the ground.  (image courtesy- Salma Arastu)
Bay Area Figurative: Emerging from Abstraction by Salma Arastu (image courtesy- Salma Arastu)
UNCLE Credit Union Art Gallery at the Bankhead Theater
Feb 16 through April 23, 2023

The Oneness Project

Arastu started the Oneness Project, a non-profit that aims to bring people of different religions, nationalities, and political affiliations together. She blends Eastern spirituality and Western techniques of painting learned over the years.

It’s important to share our stories with each other to find commonality and unity. She has collaborated with artists of different genres and is interested in working with more artists who share similar thoughts on bringing people together. “It is very unfortunate to see so much separation. I am not a political person but I pray with a sincere heart that people come together.”

“I have great faith in this next generation to bring us all together,” expresses Arastu who began her career as an artist by painting greeting cards. She urges young artists to “keep at it” with their calling or passion. “You will become successful if you are true to your craft.”

Trees against a blueg-reen background. 2-The-Nature-Poem-645x1024 by Salma Arastu (image courtesy- Salma Arastu)
2-The-Nature-Poem-645×1024 by Salma Arastu (image courtesy- Salma Arastu)

Salma Arastu’s next solo exhibition at the Lindsay Dirkx Brown Art Gallery at the San Ramon Community Center, from March 1-31.

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Shalini Kathuria Narang

Shalini Kathuria Narang is a Silicon Valley based software professional and freelance journalist. She has written and published extensively for several national and international newspapers, magazines...