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Member Spotlight: Sant Khalsa

Monday, April 04, 2022 9:00 AM | Callie Smith


April 4, 2022

This week we recognize the work of artist Sant Khalsa.

"I am an artist and activist whose work derives from mindful inquiry into complex environmental and societal issues. It is my intention to create a contemplative space where one can sense the subtle and profound connections between themselves, the natural world and our constructed landscapes."

"Intimate Landscapes was my first series of photographs of the California environment, created in 1982-1983. These photographs were made in response to relocating to San Bernardino after growing up in New York City. I was hypersensitive to the dramatic change in my surroundings and felt displaced, yet I was intrigued by a new experience of space, light, and terrain utterly foreign to me. I began to photograph the landscape as a means of investigating, interpreting, and expressing my sense of place."

"I often refer to the Santa Ana River as 'my river.' Never intending 'my' to allude to ownership or control but rather an intimate relationship one develops over time with a lover or a dear old friend. The Santa Ana River serves as a source of vital sustenance for my body, mind, and creative spirit. The river is the life source that nourishes the earth and every living and human cell in the community I reside. The river has taught me the critical interdependence between humans and the natural world and inspires me to make art that reflects on my life experience and relationship with place.

Paving Paradise refers to the current state of the river and the conflicting terrain of natural riverbeds and dams, flood plains and tract home communities, riparian wetlands and concrete channels. I was first drawn to the Santa Ana because of its natural beauty -- the vast open landscape, the starkness of its often-dry riverbeds and the power of its occasional rushing waters. The river remains a source of creative inspiration as I continue to depict the critical role it plays within the region, my home since 1975."

New Book of Photographs by Sant Khalsa: 

Crystal Clear - Western Waters

Before Flint, before ever-expansive wildfires annually ravaged her home state of California and much of the west coast, yet after the popular introduction of bottled water to the American consciousness in the 1990s, Sant Khalsa discovered a store called Water Shed through her ongoing research on issues pertaining to water in the west, and photographed it. That was the first of what would become her series “Western Waters.” The sixty gelatin-silver photographs, made between 2000 and 2002, depict water stores in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, and Southern Nevada. At that time, Khalsa said of this work: “the photographs will serve in the future as a historical document of either a fleeting fad, or the foundation of what will become commonplace in our society.

Twenty years have passed since Khalsa completed this photographic project. Bottled water is an over $11 billion dollar industry, yet millions of Americans are daily affected by the lack of access to clean drinking water. The existence of these stores in the early part of the millennium played on human fears and desires—never-ending thirsts—that have become need in a very short period of time.

Preorder Sant Khalsa's second monograph Crystal Clear - Western Waters now from Minor Matters Books and your name will be printed in the book as a co-publisher.

Sant Khalsa's photographs, sculptures and installations have been exhibited internationally; her work is in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Center for Creative Photography of Tucson, Nevada Museum of Art, National Galleries of Scotland, and UCR/California Museum of Photography, and others. Khalsa has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Humanities, and California Arts Council. Khalsa was honored as the inaugural recipient of the Society for Photographic Education's Insight Award for her significant contributions to the field. Khalsa is Professor of Art, Emerita at California State University and one of the founding faculty of the CSUSB Water Resources Institute research center and archive. Her first monograph, Prana: Life With Trees (Griffith Moon), was published in 2019. santkhalsa.com

Khalsa hosts the monthly ecoartspace program Tree Talk: Artists Speak for Trees and is the founding director of the Joshua Tree Center for Photographic Arts.

Featured Images: ©Sant Khalsa, Intimate Landscapes ("East Highland, CA"), Paving Paradise ("Flooding Below Prado Dam," and "Flooding Below Prado Dam, 2005,"), Western Waters ("Montebello, California," "Los Angeles, California," "Somerton, Arizona," and "Covina, California"), and "Vishuddha (Self Portrait)."

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