Installation view of Rasika Reddy’s exhibition 108 Hummingbirds, in the Stair-Gazing Gallery at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.
Photography by Etienne Frossard.
Rasika Reddy began painting hummingbirds in April 2020, around the same time the world tumbled into COVID-19 chaos. Watching the virus pummel her community left her feeling sad and helpless, but this unprecedented situation presented opportunities as well as challenges. The loneliness and isolation of the quarantine also provided time and space to paint consistently without distractions. She recalls, “It allowed me to connect deeply with myself and my universe, in a way that was undeniably healing.”
Knowing that hummingbirds represent hope, health, healing, and joy in many cultures, Reddy decided to make a watercolor painting of a different hummingbird each day. With more than 300 species to investigate, she was captivated by their adaptability, agility, and sheer beauty, paying close attention to their stunning colors and delicate details. The artist’s practice of painting one hummingbird every day took on a meditative and prayer-like quality. As the paintings accumulated, she began to think of them as a group of 108—a number that is significant in many cultures and religions. Considered a sacred number in the Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain religions, the number 108 has mystical connections to many other traditions and relates to the cosmic order of the universe.
Densely hung over two walls, this site-specific installation of paintings resembles a flock of hummingbirds hovering in the light of the Art Center’s stairwell. Reddy’s birds seem to have landed in a perfect space and at the perfect moment—we need the messages of hope and joy they carry on their tiny wings. During these challenging times, we hope that viewing 108 Hummingbirds will be an uplifting, and perhaps even auspicious experience for all our visitors.