When Dian Paramita traveled to Japan, she found herself lost in the city of Kobe.
Paramita was looking for a restaurant that served Kobe beef when a man on a bicycle approached her to offer directions and an alternative to the expensive Japanese dish. The man accompanied her to a yakitori restaurant where they exchanged their stories over traditional Japanese chicken.
“He spoke Japanese and I spoke English,” said Paramita, a 2005 broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media alumna. “But we shared a universal language: food.”
Now a professional artist, Paramita is presenting Food for Thought, a collection of paintings that examine the connections between food and culture. The exhibit, which features paintings of different dishes from around the world, is on display at Twenty-Two Gallery near 22nd and Locust streets until Friday. Twenty percent of all proceeds from the exhibition will go to MANNA, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that offers home-cooked meals to those suffering from illness.
“Painting is a way to tell the world I exist,” Paramita said. “It’s my scream to the world about who I am, but this time, my scream will help those in need of a meal.”
Paramita said she took painting and drawing classes at the Tyler School of Art and soon developed a passion for contemporary painting. Originally from Indonesia, she returned home after graduation. At 30, she came back to Philadelphia to attend art school at Studio Incamminati, where she worked on Food for Thought as a senior thesis project in the advanced fine arts program.
“I worked on Food for Thought for over three years and I developed such a connection to each painting,” Paramita said. “And I wanted to expose my paintings to a larger audience.”
Food for Thought now includes 30 paintings and has been shown in Dilworth Park, Freeman’s Auction House and at Philadelphia Sketch Club. Each work, Paramita said, encompasses a specific culture or an experience that is important to her.
One of her paintings features Pocky, a chocolate-covered biscuit stick that is a popular snack in Japan.
“I grew up on Pocky,” Paramita said. “I have wanted to paint the treat for years now because it is a memory I have of my family and of my childhood.”
She said she also draws inspiration for paintings from her travels. She has been to more than 30 countries, including South Korea, France, Belize and Cambodia. She has also lived in Indonesia, China and the United Kingdom.
“Those experiences have brought me so much joy and faith in humanity,” Paramita said. “Everywhere I have gone there has been someone who was happy to share their culture and their food with me.”
But before her travels, Paramita said she was inspired by having been exposed to so many different cultures on Main Campus.
At Temple, Paramita worked a part-time job at the International Student and Scholar Services office where she led weekly gatherings that featured food from different countries.
“At the time, I was meeting people from countries I had never even heard of,” Paramita said. “I loved seeing people come together to celebrate culture.”
She added that food holds a certain significance for every person in every country and has the potential to connect people.
She has no expectation for how people will react to Food for Thought. Paramita said she only hopes that at least one painting will speak to each person the way her entire exhibition speaks to her.
“With paintings, you can’t hide your personality,” Paramita said. “And I think my work shows my passion for uniting people.”