Suman Sorg, Architect and Pop Artist

People / Places / Products / August 9, 2011

To understand how Suman Sorg came to become an artist who paints nearly every day, while simultaneously designing award-winning stuctures, would mean mulling over the indirect influence of her diplomat father, the architects Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier – and radio personality Don Imus.

She was born in New Delhi, and came to live in the U.S. in 1968.  Her father, a high-ranking official in the Indian government, had worked with both Kahn and Corb on university buildings in his native country.  When she was in high school, he steered his daughter towards a career in architecture.

“I took it up and it turned out to be just the right thing,” said the architect who now operates offices in Washington and New Delhi.  “I asked him later why he recommended architecture, and he said that I was very artistic.”

She’s got three high-rises going up in New Delhi today, but she also takes time to paint on canvases both large and small.  Eschewing brushes, she paints with her hands in oils.

“I paint, or dream about painting, every day,” she said.  “I like what it teaches me. It kind of has a mind of its own – it becomes a client, and actually controls what you do with it.”

Her subject matter is broken up into three basic areas.  There are the abstracts of fabrics and textures, inspired by her mother’s clothes with gold and silver woven throughout.  Then there are the geometric forms depicting buildings without hard edges, buildings that seem almost alive.

But perhaps the strongest are paintings inspired by the national scandal over television and radio host Don Imus’s remarks regarding the Rutgers women basketball team.

“With all the media coverage, no one ever showed the girls themselves, so I did some research on them,” she said.  “I got an idea of the kind of pride they really had, and I painted a few images of them.”

The paintings are, she said, related to the way that 18th- and 19th-century women were depicted in art. 

“They’re on a pedestal,” she said.  “Just like Venus was.”

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Mike Welton

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