Artist Conversations with Swati Rastogi - Bridging Fine Arts and Cultures
Swati Rastogi realized at a young age that art would be part of her life and received her formal education with a Bachelors in Fine Arts and Masters in History of Arts. She is a vibrant, bright soul that pours her creativity into all of her work through wall murals, home crafts, henna, and personalized commissioned items. She is a mainstay at markets throughout Jersey City and artist showcases and you can find her work scattered through every corner of Jersey City.
To Rastogi, art flows through her veins and is entwined with her identity, “I didn’t find art, it was within me. I breathe art in every respect. Art has always been more than a passion for me, in fact, it is almost a way of life. After college, I started painting the usual walls, canvas and floors. Soon I became the unsatisfied artist and ventured into exploring new horizons to express myself.”
She continually challenges herself and changes her perspective, “My style today is a fusion of Fine Arts and Crafts involving my culture, traditions, aesthetics, emotions and intellect.” Growing up in India has influenced her art with a focus on folk and tribal arts of India, “Motifs from these indigenous art forms reflect consistently in my artistic creations like potteries, candles, wood panels, fabrics, murals, furniture, canvas and miscellaneous items of home décor and utility. One can find unique gifts in my stock for almost every occasion. I always accept something I have never created before, hence making it one of a kind piece.” She believes that art is not just meant for the walls, but can be both functional and beautiful.
Henna was a huge part of her life growing up in India and now she has a large henna following. “Getting into Henna/Mehndi wasn’t a surprise. For me, henna is not only an act, but a process where I educate people about its history, motifs and meaning. So, you can say it’s a combination of art and education. I do henna pop ups, take private appointments, and also get hired for events and parties,” said Rastogi. She never repeats a design and does everything free hand. This is also true with her art and craft designs as well -- Rastogi describes herself as “...a freelance artist and I create designs absolutely from my mind and soul.”
Rastogi came to Jersey City like most people, moving here because of her husband's work. Slowly, she grew her network both personally and professionally, going from “knowing no one to knowing so many proficient people in the city is a complete pleasure.” Her love of mural art grew when she spent time with street artists painting a mural in Little India (a section of Journal Square on Newark Ave). She “dreams of creating one in a public space where people can connect themselves with [her] work as it will be an influence from indigenous art from the motherland.” She has also painted indoor murals in Jersey City.
Once Rastogi felt ready to showcase her skills, she had her first art consignment with JC Made (now where Broa Café is located) and her first solo exhibition of paintings was at City Hall. Now you can shop her goods and have beautiful henna done at Artists and Maker Market, Pacific Flea, Marketplace JC, All About Downtown Street Fair, Midnight Market, and the most prestigious Jersey City Art and Studio Tour. With all the galleries, markets, and boutiques, Rastogi has to remind herself, “I say to myself that it’s the vibrancy, it’s the opportunities, it’s the newer creative era that’s bursting and residing in this city. The Mayor of JC supports the Art and I feel honored to have him next to my paintings/murals several times.”
Jersey City has left a lasting impression on Rastogi as she feels that she is part of all of Jersey City and while she lives in one section, loves them all. “The fast-growing ethnic diversity is phenomenal. It makes people of all races mingle with one another and learn about so many assorted cultures. The Indian neighborhood of Jersey City is one stop for all needs - Its chaos and aroma sums it up. I feel Jersey City is magnetic and one of the most artistically blended town. I have many cousins and many friends here with whom I like to catch up every now and then,” said Rastogi. Each section has its own distinct personality having, “...several neighborhood districts with eclectic food and shopping charm, a quaint buzz in the atmosphere at places, its cozy parks, its waterfront, its hill town feel (The Heights), its downtown, its farmers market, its festivals, its historic buildings (some renovated and some remodeled), and its contrast in concrete high rises and brownstones make Jersey City Jersey City.”
What are Rastogi’s Favorite things in Jersey City?
Liberty State Park, every corner of it.
Van Vorst Park and Hamilton Park
Art/Flea Markets and the ethnic festivals/carnivals that happen around the year.
JC Fridays opening nights (the first Friday of every quarter)
Farmer Markets and I also love to visit Grocery stores. There is always something new opening in this city.
Sitting atop the hill (now renovated gazebo) in Riverview Park
Evening strolls in the HDSID searching for new curio shops and boutiques and galleries. Oh, those secret alleys there take you in depth of time.
Central Ave has a bright market and food scene which we completely enjoy.
The Jersey City Reservoir 3 in the Heights
Driving around the city looking for new Murals and making my own perspective through them.
Keenly admiring the brownstone buildings (row houses) and its architecture in Paulus Hook
When you ask me to make a choice for eateries, Ahh! There are SO MANY. And every week there is something new opening. (I can talk about a whole food tour in another article) :) We love to eat out and have almost tried over 50% of restaurants in this city. YAS! We are big eaters.
Rastogi has a lot of things coming up - “some very interesting collaborations, some exhibitions, one of them is surely JCAST, and a few more (but I am still waiting on approvals).” To follow her and see what her next projects are follow her on Instagram @swatirastogi.arts (ART) and @engagingexpeditions (Travel) and Facebook.
(Click the images to expand)
Additional photos provided by Swati Rastogi