Samanta Batra Mehta is a mixed-media artist who explores themes of identity, dislocation, migration, gender constructs, and colonization. She is drawn to vintage objects, antiquarian maps, and found photographs which she alters to construct a reimagined history. She superimposes ornamental drawings of botanical subjects, inspired by her grandfather, who was a botanist and agricultural scientist. Her multi-layered work is also informed by her personal experiences of migrating from Mumbai to New York City as well as her childhood spent on a ship while her father served in the merchant marines.
This exhibition presents Mehta’s recent work including altered vintage books, radios, globes as well as works on paper. The title of this exhibition means of or relating to heaven or the sky. It is drawn from Mehta’s digital prints, Redux II Search for the Empyrean #1 and #2 (2021), which combine cosmological and astrological imagery. In these works on paper, she finds inspiration in history, mythology, medieval illustration, and nature.
Mehta has always been fascinated by books—avidly reading them and collecting them during her upbringing in Mumbai. She embellishes the covers of books and other found objects with meticulous drawings that often intertwine human forms and anatomical imagery with foliage and nature. She perceives nature as a metaphor for the body, in particular the female body, and as a nexus for fertility, germination, growth, and subjugation.
Alongside the altered books, Mehta will exhibit several antique globes, which will be displayed on pedestals. She writes: “For me, maps and globes stand as a metaphor for exploration, journeys, possibilities, but also, the un tethering from a land (that exists only frozen in sentimental memory).” Mehta also delves into the unconscious, drawing upon the writing of psychologists Christopher Ballas and Adam Phillips. On the whole, Mehta repurposes found and discarded objects to investigate her personal experiences and construct new histories
Samanta Batra Mehta’s work has been exhibited at art galleries and museums in the US and abroad including at the Queens Museum of the Arts, the Hudson River Museum, the Hunterdon Museum, the Taubman Museum of Art in the US, Fotografia Cassa di Risparmio di Modena and Museo d’Arte Orientale in Italy and at ‘Reading Room’, a partner exhibition at the Kochi Biennale 2014. Her art fair participations include Bologna Arte Fiere, Artissima, Turin, the Salon Du Dessin Contemporain, Paris, Art Dubai, India Art Fair, New Delhi, Art Stage, Singapore, and Art Basel Hong Kong.
She has had three solo presentations: Cabinet of Curiosities at Shrine Empire, New Delhi, which was nominated for the Forbes India Art Award in 2014, The Journey of Secrets, at Sakshi Art Gallery, Mumbai in 2015, and The Crucible of Fantasy at Art Basel Hong Kong 2015, presented by Shrine Empire Gallery.
Her works are included in various art collections including at Fondazione Fotografia Cassa di Risparmio di Modena in Italy, the RPG Group, India, The Jindal Collection, India, the Birla Art Foundation, India. She was awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s 2014-2015 Painters & Sculptors Grant Award. She participated in Wave Hill’s 2020 Winter Workspace Residency in New York and is 2021 SqW:Lab Fellowship recipient.