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Check Out Nikita Yogaraj’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nikita Yogaraj.

Hi Nikita, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been drawing since before I’ve had memories. I am the daughter of Tamil immigrants, growing up mostly in Texas. Growing up in a Desi immigrant family that sacrificed so much for socioeconomic mobility, I was raised in a framework that pursuing financial stability was priority – the American Dream – and that creativity was a hobby, not a profession. But, I have always been, and continue to be, bursting with art ideas – and being primarily self-taught in visual art has not stopped me from taking the leap to pursue art and design full-time during the pandemic. As an adult, I learned about my mother’s natural creativity in her young adulthood, which was suppressed by traditional South Asian gender roles, immigration and motherhood, and all the while she struggled with mental illness as she raised my sister and I, first as a married woman, then as a divorced one. My artist name, Nikita Yogaraj, is taken from mother’s maiden name, and it’s my way of building a creative legacy that began with her. Coming from a formal background in public health research that informs my lens, I produce and pursue design related to social & health justice, both through visual art and freelance information design.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It hasn’t been a straightforward road, but each decision and experience has informed my approach to my work today. I still struggle with the idea that the best way to take care of my family the way they have taken care of me would be to table my dreams in favor of the highest salary possible. The Asian diaspora may recognize my Eldest Sibling Duty framework. And with imposter syndrome, I struggle with viewing my talents as career-worthy and with taking myself seriously as a professional when I’m not working for someone else, which is kind of what I was raised to do.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
As an artist, I specialize in linocut block prints and pen and ink illustrations. As mentioned previously, I take the styles of protest posters and portraiture, building on the tradition of block printing rooted in South Asia and other regions around the world. I’ve had the privilege of doing commissioned work for others, as well as original artwork. The focus of my art is carrying messages for today’s political climate that remind me and help me remind other people of how our history determined the present, the vision of the future world we work towards. Over the years working in non-creative positions, at the end of every year reflecting on what I accomplished, I realized that the work I was most proud of and most defined that year were the things I created – my art. I’m most proud of having been able to use art to fundraise direct aid, donating over $600 of proceeds from designed art prints to mutual aid and nonprofit groups in Baltimore, East Los Angeles, and Texas.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I’ve published first-author papers in academic journals – under my legal name (not my artist name) which I like to keep separate from my very public artist profile!

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