#ShedLightHT: LifeWay speaks with artist Radhika Gupta-Buckley

This blog post is part of a series for LifeWay Network’s #ShedLightHT campaign in
recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Radhika Gupta-Buckley is a New York-based artist. For National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Radhika partnered with DADA Daily (an aesthetically-minded snack food company founded by Claire Olshan) to support LifeWay Network. 100% of the net proceeds from the auction of Radhika’s painting, ‘Table Manners,’ will go directly towards LifeWay Network’s Safe Housing Program, which supports women survivors of human trafficking as they move from crisis to recovery. We interviewed Radhika to learn more about what inspires her to support LifeWay.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your art

My name is Radhika Gupta-Buckley. I’m a New York-based artist of Indian origin. Although I’ve been painting all my life, I started out professionally as a lawyer. Coming from a family of lawyers, I followed that path and went on to study law at The University of Oxford in England and practiced in both the UN and The Supreme Court of India. However, after a few years, I felt frustrated with the judicial system. I felt almost helpless to fix the issues, so began finding my refuge in painting. I held my first exhibition in 2017, which was inaugurated by the Cultural Minister of India. I displayed almost 30 pieces – my life’s work! The response was hugely positive and I’ve never looked back.

I specialize in painting works on race and identity with bold patterns, saturated colors, and emotionally charged moods. My paintings explore the status of women and men in the current socio-political climate and are filled with humor, sexuality, and empowerment.

What brings you to partner with LifeWay?

Claire Olshan, founder of DADA Daily, and I connected on Instagram several months back. The philosophy and aesthetic of her brand and my art tell a similar story and that led to this collaboration. Claire commissioned me to paint a piece for DADA, and as we met during the height of the global pandemic, we thought we should auction off the painting to raise money for a special cause. We decided on the LifeWay Network because the work your organization does in supporting women and educating society on how big an issue human trafficking is globally is really remarkable.

You are auctioning a painting to help raise money for the LifeWay Network. Would you tell us about the piece?

Sure. The piece I’m auctioning is satirically entitled ‘Table Manners’. It reflects on the parallel issues of gay and ethnic rights. In the painting, two racially diverse stylized women sit at a table, gazing directly at the viewer seemingly uninhibited and free. The substance of the painting is in the detail; here the focus is on their delicately clasped hands underneath the table suggesting their romantic liaison. The woman on the right holds a parchment with ‘Justice and Respect’ scrolled on it and the lettering can be seen on her dress, while on the ground, there is an apple with a bite taken, symbolizing lust and knowledge.

This year has been a test for everyone’s mental health. For me, painting is a part of my healing process. This piece is a reminder to each and every one of us to continuously strive for a world that is more just, inclusive, and equitable … but completed with more than a splash of decadence and style.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, when did you first learn about human trafficking?

The inequality faced by women in my country was one of the main reasons I got into law. While I am an incredibly proud Indian, one terribly troubling statistic is that India rates as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. Furthermore, working in the field of International Humanitarian Law and Gender Rights in the past, I’ve sadly been aware of the global magnitude of the problem for many years.

Since transitioning to the world of art, I have strongly championed women in my work, and following each of my exhibitions I have donated a part of the proceeds towards charities working in the field of women’s empowerment. I have worked with the National War Widows Fund of India and the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for Education of Women and Children in the past.

What Inspires you?

On a visceral level, resolving the various contradicting parts of my personality or sometimes egging them on really inspires me. There’s always been an internal tug of war, the more reserved creative against the version pushing my boundaries to claim the things I like aloud without the fear of judgment. When you put your art out into the world, a certain nakedness is required and I’m still adjusting to it. As I learn to be more fearless, I’m adopting a more vulnerable and overt way of interacting with the world and that shows in my work. Earnestness is a privilege and is also something to work towards and I’m constantly striving to achieve that in my art.

Thanks, Radhika. Since it’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month how would you recommend others take action to fight modern-day slavery?

Education is the key. If you don’t know, start by understanding the enormity of this global issue. Today, there are approximately 45.8 million people caught in the trap of modern slavery around the world.1 This includes 10 million children, 15.4 million people in forced marriage, and 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation.

After that, make your voice heard in policy by calling your local representative to advocate for anti-trafficking legislation. Donate to organizations fighting human trafficking, and when possible buy goods that are made with fair labor standards. Ending this human tragedy will require a multi-faceted approach that addresses the economic, social, cultural, and legal realities that contribute to the problem around the globe.

1The Global Slavery Index, 2016 https://www.traffickingmatters.com/wp-content/uploads/legal-resources/walk-free-global-slavery/2016-Global-Slavery-Index-Walk-Free.pdf