elsa mora’s stunning cut-paper art

for Self Magazine

Are you familiar with the gorgeous cut-paper creations of New York-based multi-media artist Elsa Mora?

Although she is a multi-disciplinary artist — photography, ceramics, jewelry design, painting, illustration, bookmaking — it was her stunning papercuts that first caught my eye about five or six years ago.

for Oprah Magazine

Originally from Holguín, Cuba, Elsa grew up poor, the fifth of eight children. Though she was exposed to many of life’s harsh realities at an early age, her MO for survival has always been the ability to envision her own reality, using the resources at hand.

Elsa with her Winter Wonderland display at the MoMA Design Store in Soho (2014)

When she was 16, she learned her birthday was actually May 9 instead of May 8. Apparently her mother preferred the 8th because that year it was Mother’s Day. This discovery changed Elsa’s thinking — she decided she could be whoever she wanted to be.

Growing up poor taught me a series of important lessons that I will always treasure. I learned that the most precious possession that you have is your mind. I also learned that creativity and imagination could solve any problem, whether it’s a material problem or an emotional one.

Fern Eyes (2011)

Elsa left home at 16 and attended The Professional School of Visual Arts in Camagüey. After graduating, she taught art for two years and then worked part-time in an art gallery. She then moved to Havana, where, after meeting a patron/mentor, she became a visiting artist at the University of Chicago. She exhibited her paintings and traveled to Europe. Through a lot of hard work, she was eventually able to make a living as a full-time artist.

from pop-up book Fables de la Fontaine (2011)

Her work has been exhibited all over the world, and can be currently found in the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, and in numerous private collections in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Australia, Japan and the United States.

She’s been commissioned by the likes of Redbook, The New York Times Magazine, MoMA, Chronicle Books, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan for a wide range of posters, cards, books, book covers, and illustrations.

Reading Festival Poster (Miami)
Enchanted Forest, commissioned by Cosmopolitan China (2013)
Organic Shapes (2013)

She is married to film producer and writer William Horsberg (“The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Milk,” “Kite Runner,” “Cold Mountain”), has two children, and is currently the full time Artistic Director of ArtYard, an arts organization founded by a group of artists, filmmakers, curators and writers.

Elsa is also currently working on a solo exhibition for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, OR, which will take place in 2018. Mora’s work reflects on universal issues of identity, connectivity, and survival. She is passionate about forming and strengthening communities through the transformational power of art, creativity, and collaboration.

Fears (2008)
for Oprah Magazine

for Oprah Magazine

Here are a few examples of other things she’s done. Love the whimsy!

As a child, Elsa collected objects she found on the long walks to and from school. Studying and collecting unlikely things was a way of making sense of the world.

from Elsa’s book Blossom Buddies

Organic Scissors Series (porcelain), 2003
Running Away (embroidery), 2011

Find out more about Elsa Mora at her Official Website and her two blogs, All About Papercutting and Art is a Way (an inspirational guide to creative living, where she showcases the work of others).

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Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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18 thoughts on “elsa mora’s stunning cut-paper art

  1. Jana, I now feel transported to an infinite garden of thought, feeling & possibilities. Many appreciations for this introduction to the wisdom & talent & hard work & exquisite artistry of Elsa Mora. It is generous of her to share her back story. I will look for BLOSSOM BUDDIES.
    Seeing her artwork makes me want to get outside & thank our ferns for being alive in our world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed seeing Elsa’s work and learning about her background — quite a journey in so many ways. I admire her resilience, persistence and hard work through the years. I’m glad that circumstances were ultimately in her favor so that we can enjoy her work today.

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  2. Love seeing so much that you shared, Jama. Elsa Mora’s work feels indescribable. One must SEE it. Thanks for telling us some about her life, too. What a journey!

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  3. I wish there was a Love choice by comments. Thank you, Jama, for sharing Elsa’s work. I might have to plan a trip to Oregon next year to see this exhibit.💗💗💗

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  4. Thanks for sharing,Jama! Mora’s work is absolutely gorgeous and just what I need to see today , and every day.

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    1. Glad you found this post inspiring and nourishing. We all need our daily doses of art and beauty to get us through these tough times.

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  5. WOW. It will be worth scheduling a trip to see this woman’s work in person. It’s just so beautiful!! I love Ashley Bryan for the same reason; I cannot imagine all of the tiny work those scissors must do. And her colors — the brightness of the way that light interacts with the shapes, and angles. – is so sharp and fresh. I am overwhelmed, in the best kind of ways.

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