Jayashree Krishnan is a math-teacher-turned-artist. She used to teach Math at Seattle University before she decided to dedicate all her time to her lifelong passion of art. She became a fulltime artist, set up her studio in the historic Inscape Arts building in the International District in Seattle, and started off with landscapes. When the pandemic hit the world, Jayashree’s attention also turned towards the crisis. And she saw hope in the eyes of the frontline health care workers treating COVID-19 patients around her. This led her on to a new journey and she started painting portraits of those frontline workers, which has quite caught the imagination of the public.
Let’s start with the obvious questions, Jayashree. How did the idea of creating these portraits of first responders come to you?
The pandemic set me thinking. As l looked at the first responders in the medical fraternity treating COVID-19 patients, one thing struck me. While their faces were covered by masks and shields, their eyes spoke volumes. “So I thought, why not capture those eyes, and the stories behind them, through art?” So I started painting their portraits and gave them the finished and framed ones to show my appreciation for putting their lives on the line. One portrait led to the other, and I am so delighted that there are 165 of them now. While doing the portraits, I got to understand the stories and experiences of these amazing people. Now I have put all of them together into a book titled Caring For Humanity. I am delighted that CNN thought it worthy of writing about this journey of mine as well. It is by far one of the most meaningful things I have done. It feels wonderful to give back to those that have put themselves at risk while treating so many patients afflicted by this horrible pandemic.
We notice you were a math instructor before you turned to art. How did that happen?
Yes, I knew that question was coming. While I turned to art full-time only a few years ago, it has been a part of me from ever since I can remember. And it was perhaps one of the best moves I have ever made. It gives me immense joy and purpose. Every brush stroke is a new adventure for me. And oh yes, I never had any formal training in art, so I reckon the additional experimentation I do adds to the fun as well.
You look beautiful in the featured picture Jayashree. Can you tell us a little about the saree you are wearing and what attracts you to sarees in general?
It’s all about the color and texture, and the story associated with a saree that makes me fall in love with it. This particular saree has the color palette that’s pleasing to the eye. The shades of warm blues contrasting with the pinks on the other side of the color wheel instantly drew me to this one. In a sense, the saree is art that you can wrap yourself in, don’t you think?