Shelly Bahl is an interdisciplinary artist and decolonizing art trailblazer. As an artist, educator and curator, she has been leading and participating in BIPOC and feminist artist-run culture in Toronto and NYC for over 25 years.
Bahl is the child of refugees of India’s Partition and her entire family was forced to flee Multan, Punjab at the end of the British Raj in 1947. She was born in Benares, India in 1970, raised in a few Indian cities, and later in Toronto, Canada. She is currently based in New York City.
She received her BFA (Visual Art and Art History) from York University, Toronto and her MA (Studio Art) from New York University. Her interdisciplinary work in drawing, painting, sculpture/ installation, performance, photography and video has appeared in a number of solo and group exhibitions in North America and internationally.
Select group exhibitions include: Lakeeren Gallery, Mumbai (online); Field Projects, NY (online); Hotam Press Gallery, Vancouver; Center For Book Arts, NY; Centre for Print and Media Arts, Hamilton; Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia; Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai; AIFACS Gallery, Delhi; Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia; ABC No Rio (In Exile)/ Bullet Space Gallery, NY; Villa Terrace Museum, Milwaukee; Shirin Gallery, NY; Queens Museum of Art, NY; India International Centre Gallery, Delhi; Twelve Gates Gallery, Philadelphia; ART ASIA Miami, FL; White Box, NY; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, BC; India Art Summit, Delhi; Aicon Gallery, NY; and the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh.
Select solo exhibitions include: Gallery 400, University of Illinois Chicago, IL (online); Bronx River Art Center, NY; LEE Ka-sing Gallery, Toronto; Design Exchange Museum, Toronto; Gallery 198, London, UK; Richmond Art Gallery, Vancouver; Gallery 44, Toronto; Khyber Centre For the Arts, Halifax; M.Y. Art Prospects, NY; Art Folio Gallery, Chandigarh; and Women’s Art Resource Centre Gallery, Toronto.
Her artwork has received significant critical attention, and she has been featured in the New York Times, Art Forum, Time Out Delhi, NOW Magazine, National Post, Hamilton Spectator, Asian Art News, World Sculpture News, Art India, Vancouver Sun, Art Asia Pacific, New Art Examiner, FUSE Magazine, and other publications.
Bahl has also worked with numerous arts organizations as an educator, curator and arts programmer. She is a founding artist member of SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) and ZEN-MIX 2000: Pan-Asian Visual Arts Network in Toronto. She was the inaugural director of SAVAC from 1997-1999, and has also served on the Board of Directors for the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective in NYC, and Mercer Union Gallery, A Space Gallery and SAVAC in Toronto.
She has received a number of visual arts production grants and fellowships for independent projects, artistic collaborations and residencies, including support from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. From 1999-2000 she was the first curator-in-residence (Contemporary Art) at the Art Gallery of Ontario, awarded through the Canada Council For the Arts, Culturally Diverse Curators Program.
From 2018-19 she was an artist-in-residence at the Center For Book Arts, NYC and at BRIC, Brooklyn. Previous artist residencies include: Religare Arts Initiative, Delhi; Artists Alliance, NY; Banff Centre For the Arts; Matucana 100, Santiago; Vermont Studio Center; and Sanskriti Kendra Foundation, Delhi.
Bahl is currently teaching at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, and has previously taught studio art, art theory and art history at Bard Microcollege, University of Toronto, Ontario College of Art and Design University, Alfred University, Pratt Institute and Vermont College of Fine Arts, amongst others.