A Million Marks


Artist Sarika Goulatia makes smooth cuts in rough wood

We swing open the heavy gray door to an unassuming in Wilkinsburg's Mine Factory and cross the threshold into a thrilling wonderland of texture. As you go further and further into the rabbit’s hole, it’s like being inside of the mind of person who is able to conjur the incredible from the everyday. “Throwaway” items like a pew with thousands of circular laser cuts and 3-D papier mâché boulders stacked next to curtains that look like the soft silver fibers of a caterpillar — on closer inspection, the fibers are millions of straightpins. Behind this playground of ideas is Sarika Goulatia. Born and raised in India and currently based in Pittsburgh, Goulatia has been raking in the accolades, and for good reason. Hers is excellent work with an important message.

Goulatia seamlessly traverses between Eastern and Western ways of life, which allows her to break cultural barriers within her practice. Her embrace of both worlds dictates a certain level of orchestrated chaos and contradiction in her artwork.

As I run my fingers over the hundreds of circular cuts in wood boards cut outside of her studio, it becomes addicting. The sharp distinction between smooth cuts and rough wood, it’s natural and otherworldly, delicate and rough. It hits a deep chord in me, reminding me of my own humanity and particularly how it applies to the female experience. I’m addicted to these pieces because they become so personal so quickly. A study in contrasts, Goulatia’s extensive practice, predominantly in sculpture and installation, touches on the frailty of human experience, often drawing on personal challenges and socio-cultural issues.

How does an artist like Goulatia go mainstream and get her message and her work to the masses? A partnership with Casey Droege Cultural Productions and the new TRYP Hotel is one way. (Droege assisted in curating art for the hotel.)

I was introduced to her work through her upcoming design feature at the new TRYP Hotel, opening in Lawrenceville this Spring. Each floor of the TRYP will feature a Pittsburgh-based artist and pay homage to the craft taught on that floor, Sarika’s floor is “woodwork” and her piece, the one I couldn’t take my eyes and hands off of outside her studio, is called A Million Marks of Home.

“When I was asked to conceptualize work for the TRYP hotel, I thought how a hotel is a temporary home away from home, some visit once while others keep coming back to the same venue again and again, but everyone who walks through the space leaves their own mark behind,” says Goulatia.

A Million Marks of Home is a site-specific installation that addresses deterioration through the process of mark-makings. As an immigrant, Goulatia understands the paradox that surrounds all immigrants: to constantly look forward while being pulled by the roots of one’s past. The lines, indentations, and drilled worm-like holes illustrate the passage of time and the imprint that we make on our past when we leave home. She asks the question, “Will we ever be the same again, once we have left behind who and what we were?”

“One idea that helped firm up my concept was the fact that this was an old school building, and the floor on which the panels are placed was where they had their woodworking studios. The school was in that transient phase, where students come and go and but each one takes a little with them and leaves behind their mark. Yet when we revisit our schools we always romanticize how it was better when we were there.”


Story by Nicole Jillion // Photography by Joshua Frenzie