Paper Cuts and Paper Heals: Connie Karleta Sales Interview

Connie Karleta Sales’s paintings are heavily influenced by her poetry and vice versa. In fact, I have yet to figure out which comes first: the words or the images. They are so seamlessly tied together in her mind and work — in her expression — that I’ve stopped questioning. The piece featured for this interview is called Breathe, a piece of ink, graphite, and charcoal on paper measuring in at 10 x 16 inches. The title perfectly epitomizes the feeling invoked by the piece upon viewing; it feels like breathing in, the wash of cool relief, the expansion and release. The red and blue linework reminds of blood and veins, and the way they branch through and stray away from the body mimics the way that breath feeds and changes us. Sales’s art provokes and inspires, reflecting Sales’s own ability to bring out the creative and innovative in those she meets.


Lily Tischner: Did the figure or the background come first when making this piece?

Connie Karleta Sales: Neither came first.  Words, presence in front of a mirror, prayer, silence; came first.  Life experiences, safety came first.  Reaching my hand; grabbing the hand extended; came first.  Letting go of fear, came first.  Trusting beyond my physical comprehensions came first.  Cool air in the inhale; moist and warm in the exhale; came first.

Sales included links to her own blog that help to answer this question:

Breathe My Brave House Secrets

Covered Heart Soul Standing (the companion piece to Breathe)

Letting Go

LT: Why cover the figure with white ink? Why block her out?

CKS: I did not cover her, and neither did she.  She; a shadow.  Choice.  Here, such shadow drips.  Why?  Because her heart, safe in today, emerges softly into being.

That moment that a heart breaks free of an un/non-reality.  What she did to maintain her own presence becomes its own being.  Over time she does not know anything different.  She has no sense of time.

Shadow woven around her like a caterpillar and cocoon.  Butterfly breathes free.

LT: Why incorporate the stray blue and red lines — what about those colors says “breathe” to you? 

CKS: There is nothing stray for her. Those lines appear out of necessity. Why? I may never know. It is not important for me to know. Those lines are her, and that is enough. I find it more important for you to simply reside where you are. For you she strays. Why?  What are those lines to you? Where are you in them? Where are they within you? Can you feel them? Are they near? Is she an image in your today?

I feel her at the crown of my head right now.  Strings of orchestral feather tickles.

LT: The linework for your figures is often crooked and erratic, and the figures appear in unnatural positions. Why portray the human body in this way?

CKS: Crooked is to sway as erratic is to dance. Unnatural position is to infinite possibility as human body is to flawed.  Perfectly imperfect we are. My ability to be useful is directly proportionate to my willingness to stand before you; naked; strengths and weaknesses; wounds and scar tissue. What else can I do but draw the words out; absorb them into my skin. Share. Will others also lean into her? Lean into the blanket of her body’s residence?

She speaks to each person individually in a place where words do not exist.

Name-calling and labeling ends. Freedom simply to be; begins. That is her breath.

LT: What is the relationship between your poetry and your paintings?

CKS: Zappa painted music. I write drawings.

Following are Sales’s answers to the Proust Questionnaire portion of our interview:

LT: What is your greatest fear?

CKS: Acting on fear.

LT: What trait do you most deplore in yourself?

CKS: Good question. Deplore/hate/ I gently set these things aside. Do I have actions such as acting on fear and mistrust? Doubt? Yes. My face crinkles.

Actions, mistakes, all these things are human.  I can guarantee these things.

I do not have to deplore them. Loving myself or others is simply that. Love. Everything else is just experience. We all have those. Consequences are consequences.

LT: What is your current state of mind?

CKS: Blank; maybe too much coffee and not enough sleep.  she smiles. or the rain outside my door today.

LT: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

CKS: Like, breath(e)(ing), love, indeed.

LT: When and where were you happiest?

CKS: Good question.  I hope now. Oh, maybe now. Oh, now? You get the idea.

LT: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

CKS: Breathing.

LT: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

CKS: The utter exhaustion of non-existence.

Late September, 1994

Yes God, I Am An Atheist

LT: What do you most value in your friends?

CKS: Honesty.

LT: Who is your hero of fiction?

CKS: Asher Lev from Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev. 

LT: What is your motto?

CKS: Paint much love, always! (she supposes)

We shall find peace as we draw ourselves into existence.

For more information on Connie Karleta Sales and to view more of her work, visit her artist’s page at dk Gallery, Connie Karleta Sales.



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