Drawing inspiration from 'Cabinets of Curiosities', the oftentimes eccentric collections of objects in Renaissance Europe, Samanta Batra Mehta's work in her first solo exhibition broadly maps connections between the human condition and the environment we inhabit. An insatiable collector of antiquarian books, historical maps, prints and objects of interest, Batra Mehta has delved into her personal collections to depict themes that incorporate personal identity, gender constructs, social order and colonial history.
'Cabinets of Curiosities', also known as 'Cabinets of Wonder', were a collection of oddities which defied strict categorization but could be said to be specimens (or facsimiles) that belonged to the natural world, relics of religion, scientific instruments, human biology and archaeology, among others. Such collections were regarded to be a reflections of the collector/owner's inner-psyche: a microcosm of thought, belief and interest.
In this body of work spanning photography, prints, drawings and installation, Batra Mehta journeys through her experiences in family history, childhood nostalgia, parenthood and, moving beyond the realm of the personal, towards themes in gender constructs, sociocultural order and post-colonial theory. As an artist Indian artist living in New York for the past decade- she obliquely alludes to issues of identity, dislocation and migration. Batra Mehta uses antiquarian objects and texts to re-purpose them and ascribe alternative meanings to the same. Her visual vocabulary often has elements of the human form intertwined with that of nature. Nature/landscape is seen as a metaphor for the body (and vice-versa) and as a site for germination, nourishment, degradation, trespass, plunder, colonization and transgression.
Samanta Batra Mehta was born in New Delhi, India in 1975 and lives in New York, USA. Her work has been exhibited at various international venues including at the Queens Museum of the Arts, the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts and Aicon Gallery in New York, the Hunterdon Museum and the Visual Arts Center in New Jersey, Gallery BMB and Bodhi Art Gallery in Bombay. In 2010 she was invited by Galerie LMD, Paris to exhibit her work and make a 24 foot long site-specific mural at the Salon Du Dessin Contemporain, held at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris. She participated at Art Stage, Singapore in 2011 and at the India Art Fair, New Delhi in 2011 and 2012 with Shrine Empire Gallery, New Delhi.
Samanta’s works are included in private collections in the USA, India and abroad including in the collection of the prestigious Fondazione Fotografia Cassa di Risparmio di Modena in Italy. In 2012 the Fondazione Fotographia showcased her work in at their museum in Modena, Italy in a landmark exhibition curated by Filippo Maggia, titled 'Tenth Parallel North: Contemporary Photography from India and South America' (Decimo Parallelo Nord: Fotografia Contemporanea da India e Sudamerica).
In 2013, Samanta is scheduled to have solo exhibitions of her work with Shrine Empire Gallery, New Delhi, Sakshi Gallery in Bombay and Artopia Gallery in Milan. Her work will be included at the India Art Fair 2013, Bologna Arte Fiere 2013 and Art HK 2013 in Hong Kong, and at a group exhibition on South Asian Diaspora art ‘Her Stories’ at the Taubman Museum of Art in Virgina, USA.
Recent publications include, ‘Contemporary Photography from India and South America’: The Tenth Parallel North' [Hardcover] by Filippo Maggia, Claudia Fini, Francesca Lazzarini (Skira, 2012)