Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering commissions original artwork to commemorate 10th anniversary

In new work for PME, local artist Pooja Pittie shares ‘magic of abstract painting’

A new original painting by Chicago artist Pooja Pittie was unveiled Sept. 18 at the David Rubenstein Forum in commemoration of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering’s 10-year anniversary. The artwork, titled Between Memory and Hope (2021), was commissioned by the school and will hang in the William Eckhardt Research Center.

Composed by layering thin washes of color and dripping broad brush strokes, Between Memory and Hope presents a cascade of reds, oranges, and purples that evoke a complex sense of depth. The piece was inspired by the notion that time is discrete—that each division of time is unique, and that our own distortion or desire to move away from that granularity is actually what makes time appear to flow.

Juan de Pablo, Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering, who served on the artist selection committee, spoke about the piece.

“We wanted to commemorate our anniversary in a way that would cement the moment in time and celebrate what the past 10 years has meant for all of us,” said de Pablo. “Pooja’s painting, which exudes vibrancy and creativity, reflects the innovation that occurs in every aspect of the PME.”

A self-taught artist, Pittie began painting full-time in 2016 following a career in finance. In Pittie’s words, her art expresses her experience within a “bodymind”—a space where femininity and creativity bring together her experiences of growing up as a woman in India, moving to the US, motherhood, leaving behind a career in finance to build an art practice, and disability.

PME commissioned Between Memory and Hope (2021) through the Hyde Park Art Center's Not Just Another Pretty Face initiative, a matchmaking program for local artists and potential art buyers. Jill Ingrassia, curatorial advisor for the Office of the President, helped facilitate the commission and spoke about its broader impact.

“PME's desire to include an art commission as part of its celebration is another example of the University's dedication to integrating visual arts into a broad range of experiences,” Ingrassia said. “I was drawn to the idea of collaborating with the Hyde Park Art Center's Not Just Another Pretty Face initiative and working with Pooja because PME would be supporting both a local emerging artist and a local community art center.”

Speaking about the project, Pittie expressed hope that it will continue to resonate with viewers in the years to come.

“The magic of abstract painting is that there are many different ways to relate to it,” Pittie said. “I hope that wherever the painting ends up living, viewers can find some meaningful connection to it even without knowing how and why it was painted. That’s always my hope for my work.”

—This story was first published by Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.