Indo-Canadian artist Nimisha Bhanot reached the height of Internet celebrity this week when her painting series, “Badass Indian Pinups,” went viral after being featured on BuzzFeed. In the feature piece, she explained that the idea for the series was conceived in 2012 when she learned of Jyoti Singh’s brutal rape and murder, the aftermath of which involved a great deal of victim blaming and affronts to female humanity. The series focuses on subjects of Indian women who are portrayed as both confident and sexually liberated. In the summer of 2012, Nimisha Bhanot discovered her fondness for portraits. The 27-year-old Canadian visual artist didn’t want to paint just any kind of portraiture—she wanted those representing totally badass, liberated, independent Indian women.
“I think all women are badass. What makes the women in my paintings exceptionally badass is that they are free to be whatever and whoever they want to be,” Bhanot told Quartz in an email.
The Toronto resident has begun a series of paintings called Badass Indian Pinups. As a woman originally from South Asia, her work “explores the perception of self and societal roles from a bi-cultural perspective,” she said.
Women in her work are shown breaking every possible patriarchal expectation—be it holding a glass of alcohol, dangling a cigarette, gazing seductively, or dressing in cleavage-showing attire. At the same time, her hands are covered in henna, she is fully adorned in ethnic jewellery, sports vermillion and a bindi—typically worn to denote a married woman.