This month, our curated collection of workwear is modeled by strong women of the Pittsburgh art world. Business as usual is anything but ordinary for these well-rounded gals, meaning a typical day calls for chic and versatile pieces that go from office to opening – all while exhibiting their unique style. Of all the marvelous things they’ve achieved, their magnum opuses are the profound impacts they’ve had in their field and in their communities.
Meet Kara Skylling
Tell us a bit about what you do.
I am the Exhibition Coordinator and Facilities Manager at Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, CMU’s contemporary art gallery. In this role, I coordinate the shipping of artworks to and from the gallery, work with artists architects and designers to develop new artworks for exhibitions, draft contracts and loan agreements for artworks, design and fabricate exhibition furniture and apparatus, manage the preparation, handling and installation of artworks, design exhibition layouts, manage the upkeep and maintenance of the gallery as well as various other tasks. My days are varied and challenging while keeping me excited and inspired.
Who is your favorite artist, and why do you identify with them?
Though my favorite artists are ever changing, I feel a consistent connection to the works of Richard Tuttle and Agnes Martin. They are always who I turn to when I need to recharge. I am recently drawn to language as creative outlet and have been really interested in the writings of Clarice Lispector. Her novel, Água Viva, is written as a stream-of-consciousness type monologue, as though she is in spontaneous conversation with the reader. There is no plot to the novel, but rather, her use of language is lyrical and poetic as she expresses a sensitivity to her surroundings and experiences that as the reader you can feel through your whole being as though you are experiencing life not just with her, but as her. Other current faves include artist Tati Compton and authors Lucia Berlin and Leopoldine Core.
What are a few fun facts about yourself?
Purple is my second least favorite color but I wear purple boots to work everyday. In middle school, I held the record for 42 push-ups. My current record is 29.
Describe your personal style.
Since college, I have been defining my style as “rock ‘n roll grandma” mixing band T-shirts with vintage cardigans, tight black jeans and black leather boots. I think with time that has evolved slightly but still remains true. I prefer classic, timeless pieces that are simple and casual. I will always prefer my favorite worn out t-shirts and jeans to most anything else and layer them up with nice pieces made by independent designers.
How do you see style as an art form?
As someone who started altering my clothes in middle school to create the fit and styles that I wanted and then received my BFA in Fibers and Fabric Design, I see no lines between style and art. What we wear allows us to make not only aesthetic but also political statements. There is a lot about the clothing industry that goes against my beliefs but I feel encouraged by and prefer to support designers and labels paying ethical wages for labor, manufacturing locally, creating unisex styles and expanding size options to build an industry of integrity and inclusivity.
What do you like to wear to an art opening, gallery event, work meeting, etc.?
My days are split between working in the wood shop, painting gallery walls, completing office work, attending meetings with curators, artists, faculty and staff, working in my studio, attending gallery receptions and other events, etc… Each day I have to be prepared for anything and everything. This is reflected in my style and I choose to wear clothing that is versatile and classic yet unique.
Best career advice you’ve ever received?
I feel that I have learned the most from unexpected experiences rather than necessarily being given direct career advice. When I applied to my first position working as an art handler, someone close to me insisted that I was wasting my time and would not be hired because I did not meet all the requirements of the position. I decided to apply anyway; I had a strong background in visual art, years of experience in conservation picture framing, carpentry experience, and I was eager to learn and build my skills. I was interviewed and hired the same day. There have been many studies done stating that women are more likely to only apply to jobs they are 100% qualified for as opposed to men who apply when they meet some but not all of the requirement. Art handler and preparator positions are held mostly by men and I could have easily allowed myself to feel discouraged from both inside and outside forces telling me I would not succeed, and not taken the opportunity to apply. Looking back at this experience, I feel it is important to go for the opportunities that most interest and excite you. It would have been easy to allow discouragement and stereotypes stop me but I try to focus on the drive that I have to do work that I love and I am honored each day to have that opportunity.
+Follow Kara on Instagram: @karasite
+Check out her website
+Read About the Other Inspiring Women Featured This Month >>