Getting to know the superbly talented, Sofia Maria Paz
How long have you been an artist?
I believe we are all born artists. As children, we instinctually put crayons to paper, splatter paint, and mold entire worlds with play-dough or dried pasta. However, somewhere along the way we either lose interest, or someone, whether it’s a parent, teacher, or even ourselves, convinces us that we don’t possess any artistic talent. So backtracking to answer your question; without consciously knowing, I’ve been an artist since the day I snatched a marker off the kitchen floor and decided the walls needed some murals.
When did you know that art was your life calling?
Whether or not to pursue a career in fine art was never a conscious decision, let alone even a question for me. I just always knew. Perhaps it was because my mother encouraged me to follow my passion, and stay true to what I loved most. What really impressed me about your work is initial beauty and striking character, but then the complexity and subtle nuances embedded within.
Is there a method to understanding your pieces you would like people to know?
Although my pieces have a deeply rooted allegorical and symbolic complexity, the viewer is free to make their own interpretation of the work. Many appreciate and discuss my art for their color schemes and compositional beauty.
To truly understand my work, my advice to the audience is to first look for the main characters in the art piece — are there hands, toys, sculptures, or animals? — then analyze their relationship with each other. This can be determined by the distance between them, their gestures, eroded condition, and visual placement. The following step would be to look for direct art historical or contemporary zeitgeist references. From there a conclusion will promptly lead you into the smaller pieces. For instance, if there are onions, think about what onions cause — tears. The most curious thing I have discovered through exhibiting my artwork is that there has never been a child that hasn’t loved being in my exhibition space. They are in awe of the artwork to the extent that they are literally drawn-in wanting to touch each surface. I think this proves that although my art portrays graphic and traumatic subjects, the works themselves can speak to any audience and hopefully spark a conversation that is very much needed in our society. The goal of my artwork is to provoke a new profound form of viewer engagement that in turn can evoke compassion, raise awareness, and instigate social change.
The human hand seems to be a recurring subject in your current collection, does it have a specific meaning or does it change from piece to piece?
You are most certainly right, the human hand is a predominant subject in my work’s visual language. I’ve always been fascinated by hands because of how we unconsciously communicate with them. For instance, rubbing between our fingers is a sign of anxiety, whilst a clenched fist is an indicator of surging rage or pain. Even an inanimate hand depicts lifelessness.
For this reason, I use human hands as the anonymous characters in my art’s visual narratives. They are the heroes, the victims, and the villains. These hands, however, are not always those of a live human model. Instead, I often apply photographs of hands from Italian Renaissance statues and plastic mannequins. In these instances, the fleshless hands serve as allegories of characters devoid of empathetic emotion or human life. It is said that “eyes are the windows to the soul,” but I believe hands speak the words from the heart.
What other professions have you studied? What other jobs have you done that you feel added to your experience as an artist?
One of my most enriching experiences was during my graduate school years working with Professor Emeritus, John Risseeuw. As his creative assistant at Pyracantha Press, we worked on cross-disciplinary art projects alongside cosmologist, Dr. Laurence Krauss, philosopher, Cheshire Calhoun, and Dr. Aditi Chattopadhyay from ASU’s AIMS Center. Professor Risseeuw’s three-year mentorship and collaborations demonstrated the importance of passing on knowledge and art’s place in the academic world.
With that said, my other greatest passion, aside from art-making, is teaching. At Arizona State University, I had the privilege to work as a 2D design and color theory instructor. The world of teaching fascinates me. You get to learn from your students as much as they learn from you. I look forward to one day getting back into the classroom environment.
On average, how long does it take you to create a piece using your various design and photo editing tools?
Like every art medium, digital compositing has its own freedoms and limits. The time it takes to complete an art piece largely depends on the scale of the project, the complexity of the composition, and the source images I have access to. It is for these reasons I oftentimes abandon projects for long periods of time until I discover the missing allegorical symbol or compositional element needed to make the artwork visually and emotionally compelling. Taking all these factors into consideration, the completion of a single work ranges anywhere between one to eight months.
If you could expose your work to a new city anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Chicago is a city I would strongly consider. One of the core subjects in my artwork is the post-traumatic effects children experience as survivors of human trafficking. Chicago is currently, one of the top five cities in the United States that has the most sex trafficking.
In this city alone, over three hundred thousand children every year fall victim to this crime.
Do you have a very large piece, sculpture, or exhibition that you’ve always dreamed of doing if funding was no object?
That question makes my heart flutter! I have dreamt of many projects that could never manifest because of the lack of monies. Currently, a body of work that most excites me would be to take my digital composites, break them down into multiple life-size irregular-shaped panels, and reconstruct them off the wall. These expansive compositions would extend into the viewer’s space creating a more immersive experience.
Originally published on ATOGallery.com