Sarika Goulatia is an installation artist and sculptor whose medium is very much driven by the ideas behind her work. Many times when creating a new element for an installation, it's the first time she's ever worked in that particular technique or material- she comes up with the idea or is hit with inspiration and just figure out how to make it happen. Her work creates opportunities to confront issues of morality, chaos, and consumerism opening doors for introspection and dialogue.
Like last month's artist, Sarika has a studio space filled with natural light in the Mine Factory. We stopped in to see what she's working on, and there was a lot to see! With one solo show just wrapping up and some other opportunities coming up later this year, including PCA's Emerging Artist of the Year exhibition, her studio is filled wall to wall with elements in various states of progress.
Where are you from?
Originally I'm from Delhi, India. I grew up there and have a background in textiles which is totally different from what I do now. But I think it's connected- there's a repetitiveness in the weaving process and patterns which exist in my current work.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
Squirrel Hill, on the slag heap, to be precise.
Why do you choose to make art in Pittsburgh?
I think Pittsburgh is a great city to make art in. Where else could you get a studio this size? To be quite honest, I hated Pittsburgh when I came here because I am from a big city, loud and noisy. I come here, it was quiet as hell, you don't know anyone and my aspiration was just, "When can I just move to New York?" And I did, for a little bit. But, I think once you start living here, I call it quicksand: You are never leaving Pittsburgh.
There's a comfort value here that's different- it's a very warm place. Where else can you have the director from The Andy Warhol Museum come for a studio visit or somebody from the Cultural Trust? You can call Murray Horne and say I need you to see my new work. I think it's so approachable. But the bad the point is that once you get to that point, your visibility gets very narrow, so you end up seeing the same people over and over again, which is my negative of Pittsburgh. But I think it's a great city if you want to push yourself really, and you do the work.
What is your favorite part of being an artist in Pittsburgh?
I think that you can go for as many shows as you want. I think it's an awesome community of artists. You have to connect with them- you don't know anyone, and you go to three openings, and you know everyone. And everyone is happy to know each other. It's a very supportive community, and I think that's great.
What would you love to see more of in the Pittsburgh art scene?
I think more diversity. And maybe more open studios. Saying that, I have two kids. So when I have to go for an opening Friday, Saturday, Wednesday, whenever, I'm like "holy cow, I can't do this. I can't be a mom and an artist." But I feel like it's very important to do it from an art perspective because you need to support your fellow artists. But having a family gets in the way sometimes, but that's a different issue altogether.
I think I would like to see more open studios. I also see these small communities that are trying to help artists, but they seem very insular, and it's only open to you if you are under their banner, and I think it could be more beneficial to the arts community overall to be all inclusive.
What's your favorite music to jam to in the studio?
I listen to only NPR in the studio. Non-stop. The other thing which I like about having a studio here is that I can work on my own but if I want company, I can grab the building manager and be like "Randy, what are you doing? Come here." And I'll ask him a bunch of stupid questions because unfortunately or fortunately because I grew up in India, I never used any tools. It was like if you needed a painting hung, you called a carpenter. And now I use all these power tools, and I think "Ok, now I bought it. How the hell do I use it?" So I have to find people who will show me and then, of course, you figure it out. I love that aspect of this building that if I want someone, there are people, but if I don't want that, I can disappear.
What other things do you do when you are not making art?
I'm volunteering at school, attending school functions, and doing mom stuff. I keep waiting for them to get older, so I can do a residency but I feel like that will happen never. I had a friend tell me I'd have to give up everything I'm doing when they are in high school to look for colleges, and I just said "Are you kidding me? I'm not doing that. They have to figure their stuff out." But I do love to walk, and that's when I listen to podcasts.
What would you tell artists that are just starting out?
Just make work. I was very fortunate because I got that Mattress Factory opportunity that was a huge show, and then there was something at PCA, and I got some instant exposure, and it felt like you don't have to go out and look for things, they just come to you. And then when I got this studio, I just shut the door and for at least a year I just made work. People would ask me all the time what show I was preparing for, and I would say I was working in the hopes of a show. Because I can tell you I can make huge scale work but if you've never seen anything on that level from me or images, you're skeptical, so I think you need to build your reputation around what you want to do and navigate it that way.
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