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Fridge to Frames

May 18, 2023

Over a decade later, the support is the same—but at 16, Gollapudi’s works are more than doodles drawn on printer paper adorning the family’s fridge. Her works today are pieces two feet, three feet tall, pieces which take up to 10, 12 hours to complete.

Pieces more suitable for display at the U.S. Capitol than the fridge.

Pieces like “Golden Repair,” Gollapudi’s personal favorite and most celebrated painting.

“Golden Repair,” Gollapudi’s personal favorite and award-winning painting, hangs in Washington D.C’s Capitol Building.

The painting, a portrait of a young woman pierced with golden cracks, won first out of 142 entries in the 2022 Congressional Art Competition—earning it a place in Congressman Darin LaHood’s office at the Capitol Building.

The piece draws inspiration from kintsugi — a Japanese technique for repairing broken pottery by filling the crevices with precious metals like gold, illuminating the jagged edges, deriving beauty from the flaws.

“You get this incredible, unique piece where the gold is lining all of the cracks,” Gollapudi said, “but it’s also sturdier than it was before.”
By bringing the traditional Japanese pottery technique to a new medium, a painting, “Golden Repair” reflects two driving forces behind Gollapudi’s passion: spreading awareness and spreading her wings.

Drawing on cultural influences from India to Japan, representation is a tenet of Gollapudi’s art. She wants everyone to “feel at least a little seen or represented” by her work, even if viewers cannot immediately understand her pieces’ full complexity.

While some works are designed to resonate with a specific community, like a portrait of her great, great grandmother that represents her own Indian family’s stories and traditions, others—“Golden Repair” among them—speak to a larger audience: humanity as a whole.

These pieces don’t just convey the messages passed down through families of the world, but the messages Gollapudi has learned through her own artistic journey.

Messages like how our flaws should be celebrated and embraced.

As the size of Gollapudi’s art has increased throughout that journey — first a sheet of paper, then an 18 x 24 canvas and now a mock-up for a sculpture in Beardstown, IL—so has her confidence.

A previous version of herself, an earlier draft of the artist, may have abandoned a piece after hours spent bent over a desk didn’t produce her exact vision, Gollapudi said.

But today, she finds value in her artistic trials and imperfections — an idea she draws on in her kintsugi-inspired Capitol art.

“Golden Repair,” while not a self-portrait, is a self-reflection — an image of a woman “with a few features similar to mine,” Gollapudi said, who remains a “strong and confident woman” despite her flaws.

“Although we sometimes break,” Gollapudi said, “the repair we go through only makes us more unique and better individuals.”

As Gollapudi becomes a better individual, a better artist, the scope of her art extends beyond a personal token of growth.

“My parents raised me [with] a strong belief that if you’re in a position to help people,” Gollapudi said, “you should.”

By auctioning off her work in the community, she has helped support the growth of others worldwide—raising $1000 to ship medical supplies to Ukraine and fund education in rural India.

The auction proceeds from Gollapudi’s “In Hope of Seeing Tomorrow” helped fund medical supply shipments to Ukraine.
“In Hope of Seeing Tomorrow”depicts a sheep too innocent to understand the ‘darkness’ of war around it.
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