Arts & Culture

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My H-4 Saga

Juhi Bharat2013

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

ARTIST STATEMENT

Thousands of people come to the United States every year as a dependent on an H-1B work visa holder. These individuals come with an H-4 visa. While some of these people are men, this demographic primarily consists of married women. Once here, their life is limited to the household and family, volunteering, or, financial-means permitting, studying. While the woman might have had a successful career in her home country, she gets tied down due to inability to work on an H-4 visa. It frustrates her, as she cannot legally earn a single penny. She is wholly dependent on her husband for her wellbeing. This can lead to her being exploited if she gets tempted to undertake illegal work. It also puts her at the risk of deportation. Some women are battered and can’t find a way out since they don't have any working rights in the country. Most of all, it breaks their self-esteem and zest for life.

My work, "My H-4 Saga," takes a critical look at this situation. I set out to do this painting because this is my story. The painting broadly depicts a woman whose hands are tied. This abstract, cubism-inspired painting uses geometrical shapes for the eye, nose and lips on the right side of the painting. The red lip signifies a woman. The left side of the canvas has the woman's hands tied, also symbolic of perceived male superiority. The rope converts itself into a pen at the bottom left to signify my career as a journalist. The nose doubles up as a teardrop, signifying the mental anguish. Crossing lines that create the nose is a number 4 and the alphabet H is depicted next to the pen. A question mark sits atop the paisley signifying the uncertainty that H-4 visa brings in the lives of thousands of women. The monochromatic brown theme is symbolic of Indian skin tones- and those of many immigrants to this country. The paisley on bottom right is symbolic of my Indian roots and of the hope that these women have for their future. 
Curator's Note: Beginning on May 26, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services extended eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.

Curator's Note: Beginning on May 26, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services extended eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.

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JUHI BHARAT was born in India and currently resides in New Jersey. Juhi has a background in fine arts and previous work experience in several print media publications in the United States and in India. She holds an Associate’s Degree in 3D Animation and Multimedia along with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. After staying on H-4 visa for several years, she recently got an H-1B visa and currently works as a User Experience Designer for a leading ISP in New York. Learn more about Juhi's work at www.artbyjuhi.com.

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