As a child in New Delhi, Samanta Batra Mehta grew up surrounded by her grandfather’s lush ornamental gardens. But this mythical landscape existed only in her memories. Her grandfather, a professor of agricultural sciences, left them behind during the devastating partition of Pakistan and India that displaced an estimated 12 million people.
Mehta’s interdisciplinary work symbolically documents the oral histories of displacement. Voices of longing materialize in Mehta’s detailed, meticulous drawings of botanical forms. Mirage (2010) recalls the receding memory of her grandfather’s beautiful gardens while Silent Witness (2010) layers a map with cut vellum and blood-red ink.
In her work, the New York-based artist uses a variety of media including painting, drawing, photography, found materials and installation to explore the relationship between land and the body.
“I am interested in mapping connections between human conditions and the environment that we inhabit,” Mehta says. “The female body is a microcosm for what is happening in the world today. It can be plundered, degraded, controlled and maimed, much like the land is."
But in works such as Forest of Desire #2 (2009), the landscape is also about fecundity and fertility.
Land is both subject and metaphor in Mehta’s art practice, both generative and vulnerable. Through her meticulous line drawings, Mehta explores her lived experience in memory and myth. “Being a diasporic artist, I am always trying to locate my place in the universe,” she says. “It’s more about where I am — longing, belonging, being rooted and routed.”
See more of her work at samantabatramehta.com.
Mirage Series #1, 2010. Ink, graphite, 22k gold leaf, mylar, paper. 11x11 inches (detail shown).
Mirage Series #2, 2010. Ink, graphite, 22k gold leaf, mylar, antiquarian maps. 11x11 inches.
Here I Lie in My Own Separate Skin #1, 2010. C Print. 18.75 x 49.5 inches.
The Last of the Uncolonized Lands #1, 2010. C Print. 30x30 inches.
The Last of the Uncolonized Lands #2, 2010. C Print. 30x30 inches.
The Last of the Uncolonized Lands #3, 2010. C Print. 30x30 inches.