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Emerging Local Artist Slices Through Paper to Express Pain, Transformation 

A cut above

"Acceptance" by Karla Sosa.

Courtesy of Karla Sosa

"Acceptance" by Karla Sosa.

Six years ago, Karla Sosa left her hometown of Merida, Mexico, on the tip of Yucatan Peninsula to come with her husband to Charlotte, where he had recently gotten a job.

For Sosa, it was an exciting time but a stressful one. She knew no one and didn't speak the language, so meeting people was difficult. She soon found the stress had enflamed the chronic pain she had dealt with for many years.

After not being able to find work for a couple years, Sosa decided to chase her true passion: art. Inspired by Cuban artist Elsa Mora, who works with a paper cut technique, Sosa began making geometric art pieces depicting the female form, plant life and other elements that she felt symbolized the transition she was going through.

On Feb. 4, Sosa will showcase six pieces of her work at Haylo Healing Lounge. In the days leading up to the opening, Creative Loafing sat down with Sosa to discuss her inspirations and how making art has helped her health condition more than medicine.

Creative Loafing: How long have you been an artist?

click to enlarge Karla Sosa.
  • Karla Sosa.

Karla Sosa: I have a degree in graphic design, actually. Back then I wanted to study art, but in my hometown, they didn't have any art schools so I chose the closest thing that I could find, and that was graphic design. But I always had this interest about art. I got a job after college and then, two years after I got the job I came here, and that gave me a chance to reconnect with the art because I couldn't find a job here. So I took the chance to reconnect with art and that's how I started again.

I started with illustration, actually. And then I discovered this artist, her name is Elsa Mora, and she's from Cuba. She does paper cut art and I was blown away. I saw her work and thought to myself, I need to try this. So that's how I started.

To an American eye, the technique recalls a grade-school project in which kids would cut snowflakes out of paper. You presumably did not grow up with much snow, but did you have any similar experience in Merida?

[laughs] No, we did not do snowflakes. In Mexico we had this tradition, in Spanish it's called papel picado. They use this in celebrations, mainly for Day of the Dead. They use that for a lot of celebrations, mainly religious things. That's what we did in elementary school.

How did you connect with the paper cut technique once you tried it?

It relates a lot with who I am. To me, paper is a very simple thing, and it ends up being garbage many times. So to me, cutting it is like, paper holds a lot of transformation power for me. Put in the right effort and you can create a piece of art out of almost anything, an insignificant thing that is paper. That's why I love it so much.

That relates to me a lot, right now I'm going through this process. A lot of personal things are happening right now. It's like I am in this process of transformation.

How so?

I have chronic pain. That has been quite the journey to find what helps and what is not working. I consulted with doctors, regular doctors, but that didn't help at all. What helped was energy work and a lot emotional work that I've been doing. So I learned a lot about self-acceptance, growth, about loving yourself unconditionally, all that. That has helped.

The mind and the body are connected and I do not understand how, it's a mystery to me yet, but knowing all that has been able to relieve some pain, which is very weird, but it's working.

One of Karla Rose's color studies.
  • One of Karla Rose's color studies.

How does symmetry play a role in your finished pieces?

It's like finding yourself, really. I work a lot with reflective images that are finding each other or making a contact with each other.

It's really about that. It's about knowing this hidden part of yourself and acknowledging that and then recognizing and integrating that into yourself.

Has the art helped you get through that transition period?

Yes. Frida Kahlo is like, kind of a mentor, because she used her work in that way, to put her suffering there. Kind of like a therapy I would say. So I took that from her and I started doing that. I thought OK so this might be helpful for me just to channel all this energy, all this suffering there. And it has helped a lot.

The act of cutting this paper to make art is a bit violent in itself. Do you feel that's a reason you connected with the medium, dealing with what you've dealt with?

That's what's happening to me. I don't even know if there exists this transformation process without it being painful, but mine has been incredibly painful and challenging.

I feel that someone is cutting through all those layers of — I don't know — something that is stuck there, and something is just rushing in. To me it is a metaphor, really.

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