What Moves West Windsor Artist Zoya Gupta?

Winning the Best of Show Award at the 2024 Youth Art Exhibition at Phillips’ Mill overwhelmed the high school student from West Windsor, NJ. Her painting, “Dislocation,” amazed juror Mel Leipzig, and just about everyone else who saw it.

Zoya Gupta enjoys music, birding, badminton and strolling around the Princeton University campus. “It reminds me of Hogwarts,” she says. “It is such a pretty place. It is especially beautiful when it snows, which is pretty new to me.”

"Dislocation" Artwork by Zoya Gupta
"Dislocation"  Zoya Gupta

The West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South junior lived in multiple warmer-climate cities around the world, mostly in India but also in Dubai, before her family settled in West Windsor. Moving and feelings of displacement are recurrent themes in her artwork, including the extraordinary painting “Dislocation,” which won Best of Show in the 2024 Philips’ Mill Youth Art Exhibition.

“The humanity of this piece is astounding,” relays Mel Leipzig, the esteemed Trenton-based artist who judged the show. “The painting is extremely well constructed with terrific composition, color and subtlety of tones. Zoya Gupta should be proud of what she did in ‘Dislocation.’”

“Dislocation” is one of several of her paintings that depict scenes of people in transition. “Moving puts a lot of stress on the body and mind,” she says. “Through my artwork, I have been able to work through and process what it means to move to a new place and adjust to a new culture. You are dislocating yourself when you move to a new place.”

Zoya’s artwork titled “Confinement” shows people squeezed to fit into tight spaces, all boxed in. The immigration process inspired the work. Much of her work illustrates the challenges and joys of a life in transition. “I have experienced extreme highs and extreme lows,” she continues. “Moving away from family for the first time, and being separated from our family back in India, was difficult, but it has also been exciting to learn about so many different things.”

Her painting titled “House of Hope” is bright and reflective of her home back in India. She's optimistic about her new life in New Jersey. "It's home to a large immigrant community, and is very accepting of newcomers. It's comforting to know I am not alone.”

Zoya discovered a community of other young artists by submitting her work to the Phillips’ Mill Youth Art Exhibition. It was the first time she submitted to a competition, after being encouraged by the art teachers at her school. “It’s been a great opportunity. I was overwhelmed when I went to see the show (on display at the Phillips’ Mill),” she recalls. “It was pretty exciting to see the concentration of so much amazing artwork, alongside my own. I was not used to seeing such a strong community. I have been encouraging everyone to see the show.”

“My grandfather was an acclaimed artist and his work has always been encouraging for me, but I also draw a lot of inspiration from Indian and Chinese contemporary artists as well, especially Sudhir Patwardhan, Liu Xiaodong and Gan Chin Lee. Although they all come from different backgrounds and contexts, a common thread is the heart and human connection in their work. It’s through their work that I realized that drawing from my own life is most fulfilling. Art helps me process my own experiences and gain closure. It helps me remember both the struggles and the good times, and it makes me the happiest to see that other people can relate to and connect with my work, and feel that their own stories are not forgotten.”

― Zoya Gupta

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Illustration of the Phillips' Mill -Artist: Kathie Jankauskus