Karina Padilla’s art lives on bags, t-shirts, paper, boots, and panels. There’s a physical energy and vibrant love to her work; each hand-made creation speaks of a deeper struggle or triumph, and unravels stories of growth and understanding. Karina’s art breathes and grows, much like she does, it is a part of her: body, Self and soul.
“I think about all the patterns my body is part of and how they keep me here and I recognize her as all the parts I keep inside that make me a vessel”.
“My guardian sprouts from my own body”.
“I’ve already found God and she’s a 23 year old Mexican girl with an acquired taste for dark liquor and an incredible ass”.
“I am remembering myself more and more everyday”.
Above are four (of many) quotes I have screenshot from Karina’s Instagram. I often find myself scrolling through her posts, there is something magical and incredibly intimate about her art and how she candidly communicates its/her message. Instagram, and social media in general, can feel like a labyrinth of opinions, voices, identities, and judgements; a place where shade and negativity can cut you deeper than you ever expected. Out of this, Karina has created a digital space for herself and her art, where she shares words of inspiration, empowerment, understanding, encouragement and love.
Last year, Karina – a 23 year old Mexican woman with an apparent fondness for dark liquor – moved to New York. And since, has been focusing all her energy into the growth of herself and her art. Below, we talk to her about it.
When and why did you start creating art?
I was about 14 or 15 when I began drawing and painting. I’ve always felt an incredible desire to express myself. As a young girl, I was always writing and I felt so much strength in discovering my voice and being able to clearly express myself in that way. That was definitely what initially brought me into drawing and painting. My very first paintings were directly tied in with my writing. It was extremely healing for me to bring those two together.
Explain how your work and ideas have changed since then.
I grew up in a poor household, so when I first began getting creative, I didn’t have the money to buy myself the supplies I wanted to use or have an actual work space. I was extremely limited; but I did with what I could and enjoyed it. Almost a decade later, I am able to support myself and buy myself all the supplies I crave. I have made my room into more of a work space than an actual bedroom.
The ideas I express throughout my art will continuously change as I grow older; and learn more about myself and what my world consists of.
Can you tell us about your journey as an artist? Like personal struggles, realisations, beautiful moments, lessons.
I think one of the biggest struggles I went through was recognising the value of my voice and who I was as a person. Growing up as a poor brown girl, I didn’t necessarily think very highly of myself and I didn’t put much effort into changing that until I found a means of expressing myself. I knew I had this raging voice that wanted to be heard, but I never acknowledged that it had the potential to heal or inspire.
The most beautiful moment, for me, was definitely using the money I had saved up from my art and moving to NYC, on my own, in January of 2015. Taking that step in my life was huge, and I am eternally grateful that I went through with it.
What inspires you to create? What feeds and nurtures your ideas?
What inspires me to create is this idea that I am 100% capable of surrounding myself with anything that I can imagine. I am always day dreaming a thousand things at once. When I create, I’m taking how I feel in my daily life and translating it into my own language. I create so that I don’t forget. All of these things that drive and encourage me – whether it be desires, love, heartbreak, torment or joy – I want to remember all of it and know that my skin is made up of the sum of all these things in a grand way. I feel such a need to express how it feels.
Is this the reason you create all your pieces by hand?
I love one-of-a-kind pieces. I love when I can make something personal, it makes it such an intimate possession once it is done. I am always finding reasons to use my hands, so this way I allow myself to keep busy.
I love your Instagram. Your confidence and voice translates beautifully. Was establishing yourself and developing the confidence to put yourself onto IG a difficult or long process?
Thank you. Before I ever made an Instagram, I had Tumblr and I’ve had Tumblr since about 2009. That’s where I had my first experience with a growing audience. It came extremely natural and easy to me to share things on Tumblr, which is why I still use it so much to this day and I think I’ll always prefer it over any other platform. Tumblr is where I found so much of the support and motivation to keep creating consistently. My audience on there is incredible and I love being able to express myself on there and interact with so many people.
Putting thoughts and images into the public digital space can be daunting, and you have to be prepared to deal with negative or small minded comments. How do you cope with this?
Definitely. It is hard when you’re first exposed to that side of social media and when you’re first beginning to share thoughts and images; but, after a while, I think it just becomes second-hand to brush off small minded comments and negativity. It holds no substance for me.
I admire this and how you use your experiences IRL and online to inspire and create nurturing messages for others.
I like voicing how I view and experience things; because that’s always attracted such a beautiful space for like-minded people, and also attract those who are seeking that sort of voice. I also feel like so many young girls are at such an impressionable age on social media; a lot of them don’t exactly have people speaking to them on an intimate and sincere level. I’m always glad when they feel like they can come to me and talk to me or even just relate to the things I speak about.
Do you ever worry about your identity being misinterpreted on IG?
I do, at times. I think that’s just one of the shitty aspects of social media. A personality can only be conveyed so much through an online platform, and most people are just quick to judge you based on what you’ve posted on there, which is a bummer. I’ll always prefer face to face interactions.
Yeah, I get you, it can be as bad as it can be good. The digital world often makes people feel conflicted regarding self-love, personal anxieties, and creativity. How did/do you use the internet and social media to uncover the better and more positive and caring parts of yourself?
I’ll put my insecurities on blast just as much as I do my favorite parts of myself. I hate the notion of social media only showing the best parts of ourselves. I feel like when we do that, we let our insecurities win, because it’s sort of like we’re hiding away the “not so loveable” parts of ourselves. And everyone needs to understand that everyone in this world isn’t 100% happy with themselves. The more we show each other that this reality is completely human and normal, it becomes such a less daunting experience to express ourselves and love ourselves the way we are. We’re all learning and growing. Nothing about the human experience is meant to be perfect.
Tell us about a piece you have recently created.
My most recent piece is my favourite to this day and it definitely put me in awe. It’s a piece that I created by covering my chest and torso in my ‘Tuscan Red’ paint and pressing my body against panels I had pinned to my wall. The finished product was an image that came to life resembling a child being held by a raven-like being with wings. It spoke really loudly to me and was a really emotional image to see come from my body the way that it did.
Any guiding words for women and/or artists reading this?
Celebrate yourself every second you can.
Words by Mollie Pyne.