Riya Aggarwal, an LSA freshman majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and minoring in Art & Design, is the writer behind the Arts at Michigan column “The Indian Artist.” She applied to be an arts blogger in hopes of finding a new creative outlet to keep her grounded during a year of remote classes.

“My goal is to introduce readers to my religious and cultural background, how it’s helped to shape my worldview,” Aggarwal said. “Because we’re all so isolated right now, being able to reach an audience through my blog feels really special.”

“From a very young age, my art was where I found my home, my solace, my cathartic release,” Aggarwal writes in her introductory column, “Meet the Indian Artist.” “I grew up scouring over the works of famous artists, trying to replicate them detail by detail. I got my start through observation and replication.”

While she loves experimenting with mediums and styles, Aggarwal explained that cultural expression is at the heart of every piece she creates. For example, she kicked off her second column by displaying her painting of an Indian bride.

“I wanted to use this particular painting to set a tone for my column and portfolio,” Aggarwal said. “In the close-ups I’ve included, you can see that there are scenes of mental health struggles where some of [the bride’s] jewelry is supposed to be; things I think people who’ve grown up in immigrant families like mine might relate to.”

“I have found myself torn between following in the footsteps of my ancestors and creating my own path,” Aggarwal writes in the same column, which is titled “American Dhulan.” “This is an aspect that I choose to discuss heavily through my art, the culture that I was born with versus the culture that I have grown up amongst, and the difficulties that come with being pulled constantly in different directions.”

Because her art so deftly embodies the convergence of Indian and American identities, it’s not surprising that Aggarwal is considering career opportunities that also occupy an intersection of sorts. She hopes to try her hand at medical illustration and is interested in assisting with art therapy programs at hospitals. Ultimately, she wants to become a surgeon.

“I sometimes joke that I came into the world holding a stethoscope in one hand and a paintbrush in the other,” she said. “I find making art to be extremely soothing, and now, as a college student, I’m always sure to take at least one art course per semester.”