Pratisha Budhiraja is a mixed media artist based in Honolulu, Hawai who visited Zea Mays as a resident in 2014. Budhiraja fuses her background as a biologist with her printmaking, printing text on a variety of materials. She has transcribed DNA code, her own biological notes, and excerpts from textbooks onto branches, coconut husks, and paper. Much of her subject matter also explores cellular images and biology. Budhiraja’s career in science is part of the foundation of her artmaking practice. “I’d been a researcher for most of my early career – initially studying behavioral change from a cellular-neurobiology perspective and later looking at health behaviors from an environmental and public health perspective.  I’d studied printmaking and photography over the years but showed my work intermittently when there was time.”

Budhiraja explains her work’s transition: “During my residency at Zea Mays in 2014, I was at the beginning of a career change from science to art.  I was still learning new techniques and I hadn’t yet developed a focus. Zea Mays was my first opportunity and ‘space’ to think about a coherent body of work. Since then I’ve drawn from my former career to visually express scientific research in an interdisciplinary way.  It’s satisfying to see these different areas of interest and research gel into a cohesive creative outlet.” 

This creative metamorphosis is visible in her artwork. “My ‘Anthropocene’ works are a series of installations and wall hangings that use a range of scientific texts juxtaposed with cellular images to visualize the complex phenomenon of human imprint on Earth. The locally sourced branches and detritus are relief printed with an excerpt of the Human Genome. The paper is Chinese handmade Pi paper printed with zinc and copper intaglio plates. The ink bleeds through the thin paper and can be viewed from both sides. I first showed these pieces in 2016 in Honolulu and have added to the collection since then.”

The materials and techniques Budhiraja uses reflect a nuanced approach that weaves together information and craft. She employs a variety of surfaces to apply printmaking matrices onto. “I’ve also experimented with printing on wood, palm fiber and wood fiber board. These are varying thicknesses of wood and palm fiber prepped for ink – and intaglio printed with zinc and copper plates.”

 Budhiraja finds non-toxic printmaking practical in her own work. “I work primarily in my home studio so being non-toxic is important in that context. I learned safe printing techniques at ZM that I’ve continued to use – and I started experimenting with my own ideas. One of my favorite techniques is the press and peel transfer film that I’ve used with varying degrees of success.”(See below left)

“Another favorite technique is simply using sharpie as a resist.  Depending on the image I want to convey – it yields some dramatic results. This is a drawing of an underwater silicone sponge. These sponges are being used to study structural elements for buildings and fiber optic cables.”(See below right)

Most recently Budhiraja printed text onto white masks in response to the pandemic. She explains, “I’ve been making a series of masks digitally printed with the mRNA sequence of the coronavirus Covid-19.  It was featured in a digital exhibition at Honolulu Museum in April.” These pieces exhibit once again Budhiraja’s ability to delicately balance the realms of art and science within her work.

View the show featuring Pratisha Budhiraja’s paper masks here