Erika Vendett and Pasha Setrova are two very talented New York-based artists. They’re also each other’s wives. GSN spoke to them about their relationship and how their love inspires their art.
Meet Erika & Pasha
Erika describes herself as a ‘a corporate Creative Director by day and tattoo artist by nights and weekends.’ She specializes in ‘single-needle portraiture and high detail black work.’ Thanks to Instagram, she has become known for her tiny pet portraits.
‘As a tattoo artist, if you were to take a look at my body of work now you’d probably call me “the tiny pet portrait lady.” I’m not sure when that happened, because it’s not like I turn down other concepts. But I love fur babies and pet people are generally cool people.’
Pasha, a sculptor, started her business, PashaPasha New York, two years ago. She makes mixed-media sculptures, focusing on fashion-oriented ball joint dolls. According to Erika, since starting her business, Pasha has become ‘like the BMW of the doll world.’
How they met
Erika, who is in her late 20s, is originally from New Jersey. Pasha, who is in her 30s, is from Magnitogorsk, Russia but has lived in New York for seven years. The couple met at a now-closed lesbian bar in New York called the Dalloway.
‘I had gone to the bar dragging my straight guy friend there pretty much just to terrorize him,’ Erika recalls. ‘I was not expecting to meet anyone.’
‘My friend was going through a break up with her girlfriend and so I decided to take her to the Dalloway and show her that there were still plenty of fishes in the sea,’ Pasha says.
‘At some point, this woman was trying to hit on my friend. So in order to keep me busy, this woman asked me, “Why are you sitting here by yourself? What kind of girl do you like?” I said “feminine girls” and then she disappeared into the bar.’
‘So I was sitting there, chatting with my friend when this woman walked right up to me,’ Erika explains. ‘She was very direct.’
The following exchange ensued:
She said: ‘Hey.’
So I said: ‘….uh..Hi.’
‘My name’s ___.’
‘My name’s Erika.’
‘Erika, do you like Russians?’
‘I….don’t not like Russians?’
‘Come with me.’ And then she walked away.
‘It happened so quick I didn’t know what to do,’ Erika remembers. ‘So I followed her, basically leaving my poor guy friend to talk with some random girl who had joined our table at some point. Anyways, I followed the woman, she led me to Pasha, and long story short, we’re married now.’
‘For the wedding, I was super happy,’ Pasha says. ‘All our family was there. It felt so nice that they were there supporting us. Also because it’s legal now, I actually feel like a normal piece of society. Yes I am married. I just happen to be a woman married to a woman.’
As two married artists, the couple inspires and encourages one another in their creative endeavors.
‘Pasha has definitely pushed me to seek my every potential source of creative success,’ Erika says. ‘She met me when I was but a young design underling, illustrating for a failing Facebook game. But she always told me how much she believed in me, even then. From there, she’s had my back through every high and every low, until my eventual rise in the corporate design world, where I became a Creative Director in one of America’s largest privately held media and business information conglomerates.’
‘Even then, once I expressed interest in tattooing, she was my number one supporter. Regardless of the comfort and stability of a well-paying 9-5 job, her endless confidence in me gives me the assurance to eventually make tattooing my full-time.’
‘I can say the same,’ Pasha states. ‘When I first came from Russia, where I was a successful artist, I came here and nobody knew me.’
‘Erika believed in my pieces and she said I could easily find a gallery, even though I had tried before with no success. So Erika was taking me to art fairs and galleries where I eventually met my mother gallery, Arteria Art Gallery. From there, when I started making PashaPasha New York, we were investing our own money in it and it also took belief. And now, when PashaPasha is successful, Erika is part of it 50/50 as a co-manager. We take all major decisions together and she’s responsible for business and sales. I could not see the PashaPasha brand without her.’
Being a queer woman in Russia
While living in New York City, Erika and Pasha haven’t faced any challenges as queer female artists. In Russia, on the other hand, there’s a lot that can hold back a queer female artist.
‘In Russia, it’s a man’s world. Females are nobody,’ Pasha explains. ‘People think that you should just be a trophy wife. And they will use it as reasoning to not hire you, not promote you, or underpay you – because it’s your dad’s, boyfriend’s, or husband’s responsibility to take care of you. And so when I reached a certain amount of fame in Russia, I knew there was no other peak for me. That was one of the moments where I knew I had to move to America where I could be an independent artist without the need for a man to succeed.’
‘Like Pasha said, there are plenty of dumb brick-headed people out there who think women can’t do as good as a job as men,’ Erika adds. ‘Luckily I’ve been able to surround myself with none of those people and a crazy amount of bad-ass successful, strong, supportive, women (& men) in my day to day.’
‘Buy a doll,’ the couple says. ‘Get a tattoo.’