Monday, 23 September 2013

Making a Feast of Straw

“The key to life is imagination. If you don’t have that, no matter what you have, it’s meaningless. If you do have imagination... you can make a feast of straw”, says Jane Stanton Hitchcock, New York Times bestselling author, who started her career as a playwright and screenwriter.

Nothing could better fit Rajan Koshy, a rice straw artist born near Trivandrum, in Kerala, southern India, and living in Galveston. A nurse by profession at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Koshy has dedicated himself to creating art pieces using rice straw, since he wants “to save an ancient and endangered form of art”, as he states.

In fact, rice straw art is an ancient kind of art which developed even before any knowledge of colour application existed. It is believed to have first appeared about two thousand years ago and it consists of using the natural colours of the dried leaves of the rice plant to create straw collages which defy our imagination. No artificial colour, dye or paint is actually added to the natural colour of the rice straw and each work is made of tiny pieces of the leaves of rice plant, which are cut, put into place and glued on to handmade paper, using Arabic gum, the natural sap from a tree. Within this eco-friendly project, all materials used are a hundred percent natural. Therefore, no two leaves or two leaf art works will ever look alike.

As someone concerned about Nature and the preservation of the environment, Koshy gets the rice straw for his works from RiceTec, Inc., near Alvin, Texas. In fact, when rice is grown, part of what is left over in the fields is the long grass that dries out and turns to straw, which has to be removed before the next crop can begin to grow. In this way, Koshy’s association with RiceTec also contributes to his environmental purpose.

With only about one hundred artists worldwide producing this kind of art, Rajan Koshy devised a project aiming to save it from extinction and to raise awareness to the beauty and uniqueness of this particular art form. A rice leaf artist himself, he opened a free museum in Galveston, which he later had to close owing to financial problems. He has, in the meantime, started a museum on the web to preserve, promote and protect this art form and to make these exquisite, beautiful works known in the U.S.A. and in the Western world.

Koshy’s creations draw their inspiration from Nature and he also produces beautiful portraits of famous people. Particularly impressive are his portraits of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, John Wayne or Jerry Lewis, made with thousands of tiny pieces of rice straw, sorted out according to their natural colour and shades so as to give texture and add the idea of depth which make his art works so unique and awe-inspiring.

In fact, Rajan Koshy does justice to Jane Stanton Hitchcock’s statement since, by means of his fertile imagination and creativity, and to the delight of our senses, he “makes a feast of straw”.

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