Your eyes are immediately drawn to their touching heads. That of a mother’s leaning in to gently rest atop her infant’s crown—a baby who rests swaddled by his mother’s side. The pair is seated in a room filled with boldly colored flowers, fruits, and clay pottery. One of the mother’s arms lies across her lap, the other holds a jebena—an Ethiopian coffee pot. The picture is titled “Coffee Break” and was painted by artist Dilip Sheth. Thanks to Dilip’s generosity, the picture will soon hang in the coming Blessed Coffee café.
Dilip says of “Coffee Break” that, “the picture is about East meets West. While the woman is in a modern, Western apartment, she also holds on to her Ethiopian traditions.”
Dilip Sheth is not so different from the woman in his painting. Today, Dilip is a celebrated local artist who is regularly exhibited and widely supported. And, for the past 19 years, he has also been the owner and operator of Artful Framing, a framing and gallery shop located in the heart of Takoma Park’s business district.
But, while Dilip has certainly made a name for himself here in the DC Metro Area–the HillRag newspaper described his work as, “burst[ing] out of intense, penetrating colors, and compositions that roll across the canvas”–he still has one foot firmly planted in his native country of Ethiopia.
Dilip was born and raised in Ethiopia to a half Greek, half Ethiopian mother and an Indian father. He attended the same primary school in Ethiopia as Abraham Verghese, the author of the best-selling novel Cutting for Stone. Dilip’s love and appreciation for his homeland can be seen and felt in his many beautiful paintings of its people and nature. One such picture depicts a single yellow Meskel flower—a ubiquitous Ethiopian blossom—popping out against a fiery red landscape. Another portrays a solemn parade of elephants as they go on an imagined journey representing their real disappearance from the countryside.
Dilip describes his painting style this way: “I am a colorist. But, I’d also like to think that I’m an Expressionist.” He goes on to compare his artistic sensibilities to those of Modigliani, the Italian painter and sculptor known for his asymmetrical compositions and elongated figures. “Do you see the long arm of the woman pictured in “Coffee Break”? That is a bit like Modigliani,” Dilip explains.
Dilip is largely self-taught, but he has taken courses at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. He attributes his artistic abilities–those of drawing, painting, and framing—to good genes. “My mother’s father was an engineer who built bridges and flour mills. I think that’s where I got the training, the ability to be good with my hands.”
Dilip met Tebabu shortly after coming to the DC Metro Area from Los Angeles. “Ethiopians have a way of finding each other,” he tells me with a smile. Dilip has long wanted Tebabu to open a café in downtown Takoma Park. He tells me, “Takoma Park is the right venue for it. People here are very supportive of local businesses. They want something unique and that is for the community. And, what could be better than a café with the name Blessed Coffee?”
Thanks to his donation, Dilip’s “Coffee Break” will soon grace one of the walls of the Blessed Coffee café, a lovely reminder of the community support for Blessed Coffee that comes from both near and far.
To find out more about Artful Framing and to view a virtual gallery of Dilip’s work, visit his website at www.artfulframing.com.