Interview: Sameena Sitabkhan

First few basic questions, who are you, what are you doing, where are you coming from?

I’m Sameena Sitabkhan a first generation Indian-American, born and raised in Los Angeles. I live in Oakland with my husband and son who’s adopted from India and my two cats. I am an architect by trade, and I teach at the Academy of Art in SF.
I have a small firm and run the B.lab program, a community-based design where students design and build installations in partnership with communities in the bay area.

How did you start to do collages? And what made you want to try them?

Hmmm. I remember using and getting into collage in architectural school, but I really got into them during the pandemic when I was stuck at home with my son and distance learning. I first was drawn to collage as I loved how recombining old and new and boring and seductive created a story. Imagery and paper are so accessible and there’s no long setup… it’s instant.

“Most of the time I’m not really sure what I’m doing, but that’s part of the fun.”

What are your tools? What art supplies do you use? Digital or analog? If analog, then scissors or blade? Glue or tapes?

I like to experiment with all kinds of different techniques and learn from others; most of the time I’m not really sure what I’m doing, but that’s part of the fun. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed creating analog works on plywood with glue, then sanding and partially destroying it. I’ve thrown stuff away and then retrieved it from the trash! I layer the cut paper back on, and then scan as high resolution as possible. I then pair it with collected digital imagery (Bollywood vintage actresses these days) and create digitally manipulated works.

What are your favorite source materials? How do you find them? Do you have to spend a lot of time while looking for them?

I have boxes of paper and scraps I’ve collected over the years as I LOVE graphics, and guidebooks, and maps and brochures and weird old posters that you find in the back of stationery stores in other countries. I’ve picked up a lot in Mexico and India and since my parents save everything, I’ve also have papers and bits documenting their experience in California as immigrants in the 60’s and 70’s. I have old comic books from India, educational posters from Mexico, and a binder of my dad’s early engineering drawings.

Your works being vibrant and layered, which elements in your works reflect you the most?

Female forms, Indian elements, buildings, chopped-up text, and words.

What are the best and worst things in collaging and the creative process?

The best is knowing that I can make something and be creative in a way that’s not rigid, accessible, and experimental. The worst is that I can’t spend all my time doing it!!! Also, adding in the final or last pieces to a collage is sometimes torture.

What inspires you and your works? And how does the inspiration show up in your works?

Narratives of weirdness, dissonance, contrast, strangeness; things that don’t fit in. A pairing of odd items and juxtapositions. Layers, erasure, remaking over and over again.

What does your art and collaging mean to you?

I hope that it speaks to my own story and helps me to explore who I am, where I came from, and where I’m headed.

How do your art and art-making impact other parts of your life?

It makes me happy! It helps me to navigate the bullshit in my life. It gives me a place to go and an outlet for creativity that’s my own and isn’t tied to work, clients, or other people’s standards.

If you should describe your art with one word, what would it be?

Hmm. This is hard. Teeming?

Sameena around the internet

Instagram: @pink__tank