Minnetonka Artist Captures the Rhythms of Life and the Human Form In Her Work

Minnetonka artist Pratibha Gupta concludes her stunning solo show this month at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, and we caught up with her to find out more about career and inspiration—which the self-taught artist finds all around her. “When you have an observing eye, everything becomes your teacher,” Gupta says. “While living in Mumbai, India, I would study the human figure by riding the bus. I would … observe people on the street as my study of the human form. Watching water glimmering in the sun in a stream, a leaf on the tree dancing with the wind … are all my teachers.”

Gupta was born in India and has been a Minnetonka resident for the last 33 years. (Besides art, she says her family is a “love of her life,” including her daughters Charu and Shalini, and her four grandsons.) Gupta’s road to full-time art was a meandering one.
 With few opportunities during childhood, she never studied art formally, but would draw and paint “whenever I had time and space,” she says, and took a few private lessons at Mumbai’s J.J. School of Arts. (Gupta also has degrees in economics and psychology, and philosophy.)

“After coming to the Twin Cities in 1984, more opportunities presented themselves and I had an increasing amount of time to pursue my heart’s desire—the study and making of art,” Gupta explains. She’s now been painting for the last 40 years and has also been a practicing ceramicist for the last 20. She also did stone carving for several years before switching to ceramics. That range of mediums—on the paint side, it includes oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache and more—is echoed in Gupta’s range of subjects, too, though certain themes appear in her work. “I love working with the human figure,” she says, “expressing it in a variety of ways. I find the blank canvas very inviting, as there are limitless possibilities.”

Gupta says she’s inspired not just by other visual artists, but also by poets, storytellers and philosophers. “William Blake, a poet and artist, made a lasting impact on me when he wrote, ‘Prayer is the study of Art, praise is the practice of Art.’ This led me to my spiritual search of finding my true self,” Gupta says. “Artist Paul Klee has also been an inspiration to me, because of the spiritual element in his art. Picasso, Matisse [and] Cezanne all have been my guides. I love visiting galleries and looking at good artwork.”

For Gupta, art is not only a craft or a hobby or means to make a living. It is a core part of her sense of self. “A certain inner necessity leads me every day to my work,” she explains. “Each work brings with it an element of discovery. I must create in order to know myself, since self-knowledge is a never-ending search.” Viewers and clients receive a glimpse of Gupta in every piece she creates, she says. “My work tends to fuse abstraction with reality. I aspire to create music with the juxtaposition of colors and form,” she says. Gupta often uses music and dance analogies when talking about her art. And in fact, her exhibit at the Hopkins Center for the Arts opened with a performance by Danielle Ricci, the founder and director of Borealis Dance. Gupta sees the art forms as intrinsically related. “The way the brush is handled is itself like a dance performance on canvas,” she says.

Steps in Tune
Through February 11
Free exhibit open during art center hours.
Hopkins Center for the Arts