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SAVE-THE-DATE! Congress 2006 will be held on Saturday, February 25, 2006

Two dynamic business leaders will be the principal speakers at Congress 2006 presented by the South Asian Women’s Leadership Forum on Saturday, February 25, 2006 in Manhattan. SAWLF is pleased to announce that Ms. Indra Nooyi, president and CFO for PepsiCo., Inc. will participate in an interactive segment with Ms. Meena Mansharamani, vice president for strategic initiatives at Pepsi-Cola North America.

This special segment will bring together two, leading-edge professionals for an engaging discussion that will highlight winning business strategies and practices as well as their individual experiences of challenge and achievement at one of the world’s best known and established consumer brands.

SAWLF Second Annual Congress 2006
Saturday, February 25, 2006
10:00 AM to 7:30 PM
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
300 Madison Avenue (SW Corner of 42nd Street)
New York, NY 10017

Anita Itty joins South Asian Women's Leadership Forum as contributing essayist. Each quarter, Ms. Itty will write on topics of leadership, identity, business & culture.

SAWLF is committed to the advancement of South Asian women in the workplace. In the June 2004 issue of Working Mother magazine, SAWLF's National Director is featured in Can We Talk? A candid conversation about race and career by Caroline Howard

Recent SAWLF Events:
JoinSAWLFat the Working Mother Best Companies for Women of Color Multicultural Conference, July 20-21, 2005 in New York City. SAWLF will host an interactive session for conference attendees from 5 - 6 PM on July 20. in Central Park West, Sheraton New York & Towers.

Asia Society & SAWLF present a season of special events highlighting Asian and Asian-American women business leaders, including:"Trailblazers: Asian Women Entrepreneurs" on May 4, 2005.

Special guest speakers include Shoba Purushothaman, CEO and Co-Founder, The NewsMarket and Geeta Anand, Senior Special Writer, Wall Street Journal.

Geeta Anand, Senior Special Writer, Wall Street Journal

Additional speakers to be announced. To register on-line, click here

SAWLF presents its inaugural Congress 2005 on Saturday, February 26, 2005 in Manhattan. Sara Mathew, Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation and Zeyba Rahman, Chairperson, World Music Institute and Producing Partner, Jungli Billi Productions will deliver the keynote address. Additional special guests and participants to be announced. To register on-line, click here

In December 2004, SAWLF presents Behind the Scenes:Women In Film Series at the South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) December 1 - 5, 2004 in New York City. SAWLF is proud to sponsor a selection of films: Meenaxi (2004); What r We Doin' Here & Ladies Special. For additional information, visit SAIFF

"Getting Real Success", Join SAWLF on October 19, 2004 as we explore the complexity of defining and achieving success amid converging personal and professional goals and demands with Subha Barry, First Vice President of Multicultural and Diversified Business Development for Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.; Jeanine Prime, Director of Research for Catalyst; and Jyoti Chopra, head of South Asian business in Merrill Lynch Global Private Client’s Multicultural and Diversified Business Development Group. Additional speakers to be confirmed. To register, click here

Join the SAWLF table on Saturday, October 16, 2004 for Celebrating Women's Lives, the annual SAKHI Benefit Gala at Chelsea Piers. This special event features actress Nandita Das & the Vagina Monologues' Eve Ensler. For ticket information, please contact SAWLF

Join SAWLF on Sunday, September 19, 2004 for a special performance and reception with the UK comedy sensation, Shazia Mirza and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF SHAZIA. Click here to register. This event is made possible by the generous support of Western Union.

Join SAWLF at the Working Mother Best Companies for Women of Color Multicultural Conference, July 20-21, 2004 in New York City.




Pattern on Pattern, in Red

It is with color that you render light, though you must also feel this light,
have it within yourself.
Henri Matisse

Matisse, His Art and His Textiles: The Fabric of Dreams
Metropolitan Museum of Art
June 23, 2005–September 25, 2005

Memories of being in a sari shop in India with yards and yards of fabrics spread out, a wild and beautiful overlapping of flowing textiles, a riot of vividly colored patterns that were embroidered, embossed, block-printed or dyed. Also, the visual stimulation of embroidery and design on cushions and wall-hangings, carpets and dhurries, block-printed bedspreads, bandhini dupattas. Seeing pattern everywhere, imagining patterns where there were none. This is something that Indian fabrics gave me—an understanding of the vocabulary of pattern and fabric, an appreciation for the drape and flow of textiles, the orchestration of color, pattern and texture. And so, a visceral pleasure in Matisse’s paintings.

Looking at Matisse and his use of textiles I realized that one of the defining characteristics of his oeuvre is the interplay of pattern on pattern, always reinforced with a subtly brilliant use of color. This idea of pattern on pattern inevitably brought to mind moiré patterns. A moiré pattern is created when one semitransparent patterned material is placed over another patterned material and a pattern that does not exist in either original can be seen. Originally, the word moiré came from mohair (from mukhayyar in Arabic), which is made from the hair of the angora goat, but later came to mean what is also called watered silk, a fabric where a rippling wave-like pattern is formed when lengths of dampened silk thread are pressed together and meshed, or where the moiré pattern is impressed with heated and engraved rollers after weaving. Matisse is known to have collected textile swatches and I wonder if a piece of moiré silk was a part of his museum. Matisse grew up in the textile manufacturing town of Bohain and this appreciation for textiles led to his collecting pieces of fabric as an art-student. He collected assiduously, from that early collection of swatches, to the famous piece of toile de Jouy that was found in a thrift store and soon became central to his compositions, to Moroccan textiles and robes. African Kuba fabrics and Spanish shawls. A red Madras headdress or a green Romanian blouse were inspirations for paintings. As in a moiré pattern, Matisse’s incorporation of pattern juxtaposed with pattern creates something new, a pattern that did not exist before, a third imaginary new thing in the painting that the viewer sees—something harmonious, languorous, and beautiful.

As his biographer Hilary Spurling says, “It was as if the fabrics Matisse painted gave up their individual identities—as tablecloth, bedspread, wall-hanging—to become the expressive fabric of his painting.” The textiles in his paintings lost their functionality and became abstract, became instead pattern and color.

Matisse has been dismissed by critics as being merely decorative, that his interiors were some Western fantasy of the Orient, complete with odalisques in harem pants. Matisse said about his work, “The whole arrangement of my picture is expressive. The place occupied by the figures or objects, the empty spaces around them, the proportions, everything plays a part.” He also said that the decorative element was an extremely precious thing for a work of art, “ an essential quality”. There is, however, a different way of seeing his work: that his paintings instead of being merely decorative are in fact at that halfway point between European and Islamic art, fusing elements of classical Western art—still life and portraiture—with the patterns of textiles and fabrics, capturing decoration (or pattern or geometry) which is at the heart of Islamic art. As in Persian art, the perspective is flattened, and figures and objects float in a densely detailed space.

In the fall of 1910, Matisse spent a week at the Munich exhibition, ‘Masterpieces of Islamic Art’. This show was of seminal importance and is also credited with influencing Kandinsky to create his first abstract painting. The exhibition was defining in its impact on the metamorphosis towards a modern sensibility in Matisse’s work. Enamored now with Islamic art he traveled in December of that year to Granada to see the Alhambra. This only further intensified the effect of the Munich show. After going to Granada, Matisse went to Seville and painted Spanish Still Life and Seville Still Life—both paintings that he had visualized while visiting the Alhambra. What is the beauty of the Alhambra if not color and pattern and the juxtaposition of pattern against pattern? One looks at these two paintings and sees that their titles state exactly what it is that they are: the marriage of the Alhambra (or Spain, or Seville) with European still life.

Matisse began his career as a leader of the Fauves (who worked with violent color)—and color, the use of color, color against color, this is something that Matisse manipulated to much effect. And there is his use of red, glorious red, the color of passion and anger, of headdress or culottes, of wall and studio. If Matisse was in love with textiles and patterns then I believe that red was the color of this love. Red is seen as a recurring theme in his work—from the early Mme. Matisse: Madras Rouge in 1907 where his wife is portrayed wearing what has been called a ‘Red Madras Headdress’. Even then, in this early painting, as in Dishes and Fruit on a Red and Black Carpet from the same year, one sees the beginning of the appreciation for pattern. In 1908 he painted Harmony in Red/La desserte where pattern on the cloth covering the table (the same piece of white and blue toile de Jouy now recolored violently in red) frees itself and starts covering the wall, and the textile is transformed into some fantastic creature of his imagination. The 1911 painting, The Red Studio, is an unabashed paean to the color red, and to pure color, saturated and intense. By the time Odalisque with Red Culottes is painted in 1921, the use of pattern on pattern is sophisticated, subtle, adding to the overall feel of languor and beauty, and the red of culottes is both center and anchor in the composition.

Pattern on pattern, in red.

These days, I see echoes of Matisse everywhere—the textural play of pattern and color in some of Wong Kar-Wai’s sets, the Rockwell Group’s new interior for Nobu 57, an Englishman walking down the street in patterned jacket on patterned tie on wildly striped shirt. It’s a difficult thing to pull off, this pattern on pattern thing, but when done well, it is oh so beautiful.

15th September, 2005.

Each quarter, Anita Itty writes on topics of leadership, identity, business & culture for SAWLF. Ms. Itty received an MBA from Columbia University and is the 2003-2004 winner of the First Words South Asian Literary Prize. Ms. Itty lives in New York City where she is currently working on a novel.

To contact Anita Itty, email: aiaddress-sawlf@yahoo.com

Recent contributions from Anita Itty: 

La Vita Nuova, April 15, 2005
The Elephant in the Room, January 15, 2005
The Wall and the Books
, September 15, 2004
On the Shoulders of Giants, June 15, 2004


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this essay are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of South Asian Women's Leadership Forum.

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