Examining What Physicality Means Through Colorful Abstract Works


An Indian artist painting on a large piece of paper.

Artist Pooja Pittie works on a color study.

Most accountants wouldn’t advise giving up a solid financial career to pursue art full-time. Pooja Pittie, an accountant herself, felt differently. Four years ago, she pivoted from the world of finance to focus all of her energy on her visual art practice. Such a career turn could be a test for anyone, but even more so for Pittie, who has muscular dystrophy.

While this serves as a great challenge for a pursuit that requires physicality, it’s also what drives the artist’s exuberant, abstract works. They tell the story of the ever-tenuous relationship between an active mind and a slow body. “My practice is based on this constantly changing relationship that I have with my body,” she says.

Pittie's relationship with her body is captured in her dramatic and colorful works, such as "The Future Always Finds You."

Paint and materials are in the forefront on the table and two abstract paintings hang behind it.

Pittie uses a combination of broad washes of drippy paint and deliberately applied small dots to create her layered works.

A large white studio with large windows and two colorful abstract paintings.

Her large and sunlit studio provides plenty of space to spread out and allows Pittie to focus on multiple works.

Nine small drawings with yarn stitched into the paper.

When COVID-19 lockdowns began in March 2020 Pittie started a series of daily drawings using colored pencils and yarn on Japanese handmade paper.

It makes sense, then, that Pittie’s process takes its cues from what her body tells her. “It depends on whether I’m going through a rest period or an active period,” she explains. On energetic days, she might work on multiple canvases at once, beginning with big, dripping brushstrokes of thin, watered-down paint that capture the movement she’s experiencing. On days when she feels tired but still creative, she focuses on individual paintings, making smaller, more intricate markings like lines and dots.

Pittie, who is self-taught, says her unabashed use of color comes from growing up in India. “Being surrounded by color there makes me not afraid to use it,” she says. “Color is what excites me the most.” Even her black-and-white paintings comprise shades that Pittie achieves from mixing pigments. And, as she explores different directions, she thrives on the challenge of working with a neutral palette. “I think one of the attributes of being self-taught is you have to constantly challenge yourself,” she says. “I can make this really colorful painting, but what do I do when I take all that vibrancy away? Can I still make something?”

Above all, Pittie wants her positive creative relationship with her body to be part of the narrative. “I hope that it questions notions about disability, because it’s so empowering for me to make art.” Her layered works undoubtedly invite closer inspection, and that is essential to her. “I hope viewers see something of mine and are drawn in,” she says. “Hopefully they’ll be intrigued enough to ask, ‘Who is this artist? What is she doing? And why is she doing this?’