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Artist displays activism through nature

Artist Sant Khalsa speaks to University of La Verne students about her journey as a photographer at the photography department’s Artist Conversation event Dec. 3. Her project “Paving Paradise” depicts scenes of nature, like this house damaged by the floods of the Santa Ana River. / screenshot by Cheyenne Vargas

Cheyenne Vargas
Staff Writer

The photography department brought students and faculty together over Zoom for its ongoing “Artist Conversations” series Dec. 3, showcasing photographer Sant Khalsa.

Her photos depicted issues that have led to her activism.

“I address complex environmental and societal issues as well as various ideas concerning the relationship between river and watershed,” Khalsa said.

Her photo project, “Paving Paradise,” focused on those issues through landscape images.

After relocating to San Bernardino from New York, Khalsa focused her photos on landscape style as a way of investigating her ideas about the place she called home. Her landscape photography began in the 1980s and has continued as she shifted her focus to water.

“I live in the desert and need water to survive,” said Khalsa. “Water is a scarce resource that plays a critical role in humanity and plays a role in all flora and fauna.”

Khalsa said that water has become her primary subject of her work as it serves as natural conduct between humans and earth.

The photos shown over Zoom depicted running water, dry canals and large bodies of water, with many of those photos being black and white.

Photos in the series also showed businesses that were selling water. Many of the store fronts had signs saying “Pure Water” or “ Good Water” as a way to create an illusion that the water is safe and can cleanse the body rather than pollute it.

Khalsa explained her relationship with the landscapes she photographed.

“I often refer to the river as my river, not to allude to ownership or control but rather with respect to the intimate relationship one develops over time with a friend,” Khalsa said.

A few photos also depicted the droughts, fires, and floods that occurred through the years as Khalsa was able to revisit locations.

“I think her body of work was great and I enjoyed how she discussed evolving as an artist and activist,” Darcelle Jones-Wesley, junior photography major, said. “She lives what she preaches and expresses it through her photography.”

Andrew Thompson, adjunct professor of photography and host of the event, mentioned that although Khalsa’s photos are of nature they share a deeper meaning.

“People usually make those photos without recognizing the meaning behind them,” Thompson said.

He describes her photos as “conscious photographs of the land.”

“The most important thing for you to do is get out and volunteer,” Khalsa said. “It will be the only way we are going to save our planet and for the generations to come. They will be grateful for your conscious act of beauty, kindness, and love.”

Cheyenne Vargas can be reached at cheyenne.vargas@laverne.edu.

Cheyenne Vargas

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