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An American’s encounter with Ma Durga

An American’s encounter with Ma Durga

An American artist has created a 3D magic in this year’s Durga Pujo. California-based Tracy Lee Stum, a world record-holder in the art form she pursues, will provide pandal hoppers a unique experience at a Haridevpur pandal, a five-minute drive from the Tollygunge Metro station.

She draws on the floor standing upright with a 3ft stick at the end of which is tied a piece of dry pastel. Her pictures, if viewed from a fixed elevated point, appear to be rising from the floor or moving out of the canvas.

Tracy has taken her art to about 30 countries and has figured in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest chalk painting by an individual — 34ftx17.5ft. She was hired by Sony Entertainment to recreate The Last Supper for the DVD release of The Da Vinci Code in New York in 2006, she says.

She was also part of team that picked up the Golden Lion in Cannes in June this year for creating optical illusions using Honda cars in Spain.

For Vivekananda Park Athletic Club, she is ‘erecting’ a statue of matinee idol Uttam Kumar over a Calcutta street scene on a 25ftx20ft canvas affixed to the thakurdalan floor, which has to be viewed from a platform. The surrounding streetscape at the foot of the statue creates such depth that the matinee idol seems to be rising from the street far below.

“Partha (Dasgupta, the puja’s concept designer) sent me some catchphrases for the city and shared his vision. I wanted to create something that people would immediately connect with. Since the original Uttam statue (in front of Tollygunge Metro) is so close to this area, it made sense to choose it alongside the city’s yellow cab as the dominant figures. The rest of the space would be filled with more cabs, tuktuks, crowds, banners and wires,” Tracy explains.

Tracy’s work is part of Partha Dasgupta’s (the puja’s concept designer) theme of Kolikata cholitechhe norite norite, inspired by Tagore’s surrealistic dream vision. “I took Tracy around when she was here for the Puja in 2012. She was back this February for a recce of the pandal spot and the streets. I sent her links of Uttam Kumar’s pictures and films. I am moved by her dedication and determination,” Dasgupta says.

“The research is the fun part of any project. I’m an outsider trying to understand the artistic byproduct of the culture. All these months, I have been planning the drawing in my parking lot, with the aim of making the legend a citizen of now,” she smiles.

The 53-year-old was drawn into street art while watching people drawing Renaissance masterpieces at a Santa Barbara festival 17 years ago. “Doing a great image in three days seemed more appealing than spending three months on a mural,” she says.

In her single encounter with Durga Puja so far, she has been struck with the “breadth of artistry in the designs”. “I am still not fully versed in this. Hope what I create will fulfill people’s expectations.”


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