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Life & Work with Sofia Maria Paz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sofia Maria Paz.

Hi Sofia Maria, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
My story is one I speak for myself. Some don’t believe it to be true, but it is an honest accounting of my personal history—the parts I remember at least… I was raised by my wonderful mother who noticed my early passion for drawing, painting, LEGO-building, and skillful use of the glue gun, as I redecorated the house with “masterpieces.” Art, I always knew, was the life for me. It was my joy, my quiet sanctuary, a fantastical escapism from an uncomfortable reality. Now an MFA graduate and professional artist in Miami Beach, Florida, I focus my practice on harnessing child-like imaginary thinking into a universal visual language that addresses the effects of childhood trauma and advocates against sexual assault, emotional abuse, abduction, and slavery.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
At the start of my life’s darkest period, I caught myself in a battle between the traumas of abuse and violence that tried to dictate my life and the noble vision of what I wanted my future to be. From the outside, I was a soft-spoken Dean’s list student, whilst behind the closed doors of my home, I was a mouse trapped beneath the foot of my father’s power, cruelty, and betrayal. The situation finally imploded when
my father’s abusive nature took a dramatic self-destructive turn. With no documents, ID’s, and our assets stolen, my mother and I seized the opportunity of him relentlessly attempting to throw us on the street to go into hiding, which lasted four years until his sudden death. Thankfully, I do not remember the details of my past since a storehouse of emotional and factual memories were erased. Six months before presenting my thesis at Arizona State University, I almost lost my life to a violent case of viral meningitis. I woke up in the ICU not knowing what year it was, yet alone my own name. All I could do with confidence was look at my mom, smile, and say, “I love you.”

Today I am still battling the side effects of the meningitis, as shortly after I developed a unique autoimmune disorder that has kept me in quarantine for the past four years.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I received my MFA in printmaking from Arizona State University, but due to the health consequences of viral meningitis, I had to change my practice to digital media. Creating photo-composites on my computer from my hospital bed enabled me to complete my thesis exhibition and build a balance between my physical and mental self care.

As a dynamic multifaceted artist, I enjoy sharing all sides of myself through art and showcase works that can deepen our understanding and develop connections. For the past four years, I have dedicated my practice to create fantastical scenes with symbolic narratives that reflect modern-day reality, and its understanding through fantasy. By superimposing visual elements in Photoshop from diverse sources— including 18th-century art, social media, 1970’s horror films, fairy tales, memes, and crime scene photography—I construct intricate compositions which portray social commentaries on events, norms, and traumatic trails that plague our waking lives.

When I look back at the past ten years, what I am most proud of is how I never gave up. I could have allowed trauma to define me and dictate my life, but instead it fueled me with profound determination to not settle for anything less of what I wanted to achieve. While I was in hiding, I earned my bachelor’s degree early with honors, then I reinvented and produced my thesis collection while enduring tests and treatments, and today I continue to produce work whilst juggling the limitations of an autoimmune disease. I try my best to make the most of my isolation from family and friends by originating T-shirt campaigns to help rescue children from sex trafficking, something I would not have been able to do if I had not had the time to slow down and collaborate with nonprofits like Operation Underground Railroad. I strongly believe
strength does not come from the body, but rather from the soul.

What’s next?
As part of the contemporary aesthetic scene, I want to expand my creative practice to be more immersive, animated, and utilitarian. Currently, I am creating montaged videos that will be sold as an NFT collection. When I attended the MiamiNFTWeek conference, I was in awe of the infinite possibilities the Web3 has to offer, and, most of all, the incredibly supportive crypto community. Their eager openness to exchange ideas for innovation, building connections, provide humanitarian support, and create opportunities for up-and-coming artists is unparalleled.

It is a slow process understanding the ins-and-outs of the blockchain, but this is very exciting for me, as it is the first chapter towards dipping my toes in the NFT Metaverse.

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