The
Clear-cut panel event
on the art of papercuts, and the exhibition,
Geometric Aljamía
, focuses on the art of papercutting from diverse cultures around the world. One of these international techniques is known as, “papel picado,”
a Mexican style of papercutting
that has roots in the country’s ancient history. In pre-Hispanic Mexico, the Aztec people would use tree bark to make paper that would be hung to decorate temples and other gathering places for religious festivals and rituals. Even after the
Spanish conquest of the Aztecs
in the 1500s, however, this tradition was maintained when tissue paper, or
papel de china,
was introduced from Chinese imports in the 1700s. Because of the tissue paper’s thin, pliable qualities, artists found the new material relatively easy to fold and cut many pieces at once into decorative, elaborate designs, and
papel picado
was quickly adapted for use during Christian festivals in Mexico.

Today,
papel picado
can be found adorning streets and buildings during weddings, Easter, Christmas, and, most notable, the Day of the Dead. Most
papel picado
is machine cut today in order to mass-produce these detailed decorations, but only a few artists still continue to cut sheets by hand using a variety of chisels and knives to complete up to 50 sheets at a time. One of these remaining artists is papercutter Margaret Sosa.

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Margaret Sosa,
Papel Picado



Sosa is a graduate of California State University, Los Angeles, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in studio art. She has studied
papel picado
for over three decades, studying as an apprentice under master papercutter
Olga Ponce Furginson
, traveling with her to Mexico and becoming fully immersed in the artistry of
papel picado
directly from Mexican papercutters. Sosa teaches
papel picado
to aspiring artists of all ages and has had her own
papel picado
featured in exhibits both locally and around the world.

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Margaret Sosa,
Papel Picado



The geometric patterns and symmetry that are present in all of Sosa’s designs of her individual p
apel picado
sheets make an otherwise very limited, two-dimensional medium, appear layered and three-dimensional, as Sosa tends to carve detailed figures into the center of each sheet. She commonly depicts festive skeletons or painted skulls in her cutting, which are common images associated with the Day of the Dead. While skeletons are typically associated with death, gloom, and foreboding, the bright colors of paper Sosa uses is indicative of the festive, celebratory nature of the Day of the Dead in Mexican culture. Sosa’s meticulous attention to detail and drive to achieve authenticity in
papel picado
by studying beneath traditional artists not only informs her own art, but also contributes to the
papel picado
art form as a whole, keeping an ancient, hand-cut tradition alive in modern times.

Margaret Sosa will be speaking at 
Clear-cut: The Point of Papercuts
, a panel discussion on the art of papercuts at Chapman University. The panel will take place on Monday, November 7th, from 6:00 – 7:30pm in the Bush Conference Center located in Beckman Hall, Room 404. The panel is free and open to all; no RSVP is required. Participants of the panel include Jorge Benitez, Reni Gower, Bovey Lee, and Chris Natrop.

Please contact Esther Shin at artcollections@chapman.edu or 714-628-2832 for more information.

We are grateful to the Escalette Permanent Art Collection Endowment for generously supporting this program.