Sultan Ali made this etching, Her Dream, during her last year of art school; it was selected for the National Exhibition of Art at the National Academy of Fine Art (Lalit Kala Akademi) in Delhi, where Abby Grey evidently acquired it. Employing motifs associated with Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, the artist follows in the footsteps of her father, J. Sultan Ali—a well-known artist and art teacher who associated with a circle of artists in Madras who used Indian iconography in their works. The Shiva lingam, or phallic emblem, seen at the right, symbolizes cosmic potentiality, and the serpents garlanding the feminine figure echo Shiva’s serpent necklace. The pattern of alternating red and white vertical bands echoes the color scheme on the exterior walls of many Hindu temples and also seen around the Tamil countryside. In such indigenist modernist works, Sultan Ali evokes the myths of the Muria people of Chhattisgarh, Central India, through the large almond eyes, rotund breasts, and stylized faces, all characteristic of Muria sculpture.
Born in Kondapalle, Andhra Pradesh, she studied at the College of Art in New Delhi, where she embraced the art of printmaking. In the late 1960s, while still in art school, she began exhibiting at New Delhi’s Gallery Chemould—and throughout her career she has participated in exhibitions, both in India and internationally.