"I was a real academic student and worked very hard in school," said Desai, a 1997 graduate of North Bergen High School who still resides in the township. "I was an honors student. My Dad is an engineer and I knew the respect that comes with being an engineer."
But there was always another side to Desai's life - her love of art and her desire to be creative.
"School was important to me," Desai said. "Art was my hobby. I was always drawing, sewing and creating when I was younger. My parents definitely encouraged me and told me that anything was possible, but they couldn't relate to art. But they definitely supported me."
Desai seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of her two brothers and attend school with the prospects of becoming an engineer.
"I actually did a summer in the Women in Engineering program at NJIT," Desai said. "I was studying math and science there. But I remember being more excited about making a dress that summer. I knew I had to find another outlet. It was more of a challenge to be creative."
Lure of art
One summer, Desai attended classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She knew her destiny. "I was leaning toward getting into art," Desai said. "The creative side of me was always unknown. I was excited about the prospects of getting into art. I didn't know what the future would hold, but I wanted to try."
So Desai headed to the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, eventually graduating with a degree in Fine Arts in 2003.
Since that time, Desai has been concentrating on a career in art. She has done a wide variety of work, including oil paintings, watercolors, wood cuts, lithographs and mixed media pieces using natural materials. Desai has also done a lot of work using photography as an art form.
"I believe that everybody should be able to enjoy art no matter where you grew up," Desai said. "The context of the culture, or even wealth, art should transcend that, and it is for everybody, not only for a select few. I'm very excited now about what the future holds for me. As long as I work hard, I can succeed. It's the same thing like I learned in school in North Bergen, working hard leads to success. Well, the same can be applied to art."
Acclaim after first solo show
Desai was asked to describe her style as an artist, which has recently brought her acclaim, just finishing her first solo show at the Café Eclectic in Montclair.
"I guess I'm expressionistic and impressionistic," Desai said. "I'm also organic. I go with a natural flow, wherever nature takes me."
While Desai's photographs have been shown and remain on display in places like Makeover in Hoboken, the recently completed show in Montclair was the first one that truly featured all of her forms of art. It was also highly successful, as many of her pieces were purchased over the course of the past month.
"The show did very well and I was amazed with the response," Desai said. "They showed my work even when I wasn't there. It was a great venue."
Desai that she was just out with friends, when they approached Café Eclectic owner Anthony Rosado about the possibility of Desai showing her work there. Café Eclectic is a new coffee shop on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair that has been drawing rave reviews for its combination of coffee shop and fine arts locale.
"My friends brought me there for dessert and we just started talking about art," Desai said. "I showed the owner my work and he said it was possible to do a show. I loved having the opportunity."
Desai's show brought rave reviews from avid Café Eclectic customers and art aficionados.
"Desai's work captures a modest expression filled with one's search for their inner self," artist/musician Hank Yaghooti said. "Her paintings have a depth, almost a darkness, that seems to be aching to remember moments and spaces."
Fellow artist Kristen Brenneman Eno said that, "the lithographs, from a series done while living in Italy and Greece, exhibit an expressionistic journey, as turbulent drawn lines form somber landscapes of cloudy, mountainous villages."
Desai said that she dedicated the show in the memory of her grandmother, Girja Desai, who passed away in February and lived in the United States for 35 years. Girja Desai was 81 years old.
Desai is optimistic that the positive review and returns from her first solo show will lead to more opportunities and more work.
"I really feel good about the way it's going," Desai said. "I can see the progress now. I see the response that my work has received. I just have to continue to make my best effort. Nothing is guaranteed in life. Everything comes from hard work. Hopefully, this is just the start for me."
For more information about her artwork, contact Vidya Desai via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com