Art: Visual Poet Carola Perla Puts Words to Art

Miami Author Highlights Transience and Transculturation in Paper Sculptures.

Atelier 1022 Studio and Fine Art Gallery will showcase the work of resident ‘paper sculptor and visual linguist’, artist Carola Perla, whose latest visual poetry installation Se Vende is set to be unveiled at the galleries 2nd Anniversary Exhibit - Perla Projekt 2.0 – on May 11th.  The young German-Peruvian author launched her literary fiction novel Gibbin House at the opening of Atelier 1022 in 2011, and has in the ensuing two years expanded on her published prose with an impressive collection of floor-to-ceiling visual poetry ‘illuminations’ that explore transience, permanence, and transculturation through cut paper, light, graphite drawings, and autobiographical source material.

Perla’s soon-to-be unveiled Se Vende integrates all these elements and introduces as its autobiographical component the real-life demolition of Casa Marsano, an ancestral estate and Lima landmark.  A graphite representation of this site emerges from behind a carved wall-sized ‘chant’ poem that uses the Spanish ‘For Sale’ expression (Se Vende) as its central ‘word motif’.  In Se Vende, the poem invokes Limean history and folk references, their melancholy devaluation mirrored by the ever-crumbling letters and the building’s spectral silhouette which hovers amid fine incisions.  Back lighting and the artist’s recorded voice performance of the poem add multi-sensory resonance.

The artist has dubbed her poems chants because they evolve from a word or phrase on which she must meditate during the process of cutting each letter freehand.  The perpetual incantation organically inspires the sound or image of the next, the motif functioning as both a visual and musical building block that slowly draws in other elements.  Since such poems depend on the immediacy of the physical creation, they are composed entirely in the moment.  Each piece, despite its graphic precision, is therefore an absolute and spontaneous original.

“I see my paper installations as room-sized conversations – visual echoes of my personal fascination with displacement and the way language shapes identity, having spent much of my early childhood traveling across borders, from Romania to Peru to Germany to Miami all before the age of ten,” explains the artist.

“The search for ‘home’ and ‘voice’ is what drives both my personal and aesthetic decisions.  It led me to write about exile in Gibbin House and to create a mute protagonist.  However, living in Miami, which is this very transient, multi-lingual city, is a daily reminder that the struggle for ‘home’ and ‘voice’ is not my own, but universal.  My hope is that the visual impact of these sculptures, coupled with the familiarity of at least one of the languages I use in my poems extends that same reaffirmation to others.”

In addition to her poetry chants, Perla features in her pieces excerpts from her novel Gibbin House, as in Off the Page, the first of the artist’s cut-paper sculptures born out of her wish to transcend the inherently hermetic nature of the writing process.  The installation, which debuted during Art Basel Miami 2011 to public acclaim, was comprised of the material culture amassed over a nine-year writing odyssey, and punctuated by the last page of the book – a cascading blanket of white paper, carved delicately with letters dangling off the page.  Imbued with movement and aglow with diffused light, these floating letters translated the extemporaneous vibrancy of language and became for the artist an ethereal manifestation of the spoken word.  “The ephemeral quality of paper adds to the effect with its frailty,” she said, “yet the irreversible act of cutting reinforces the permanent nature of words.  As words cannot be unsaid, so a paper cut is the ultimate in commitment.  The possibilities seemed endless.”

Indeed, the potential for this art form sparked the series of transience- and transculturation-themed works that round out the collection currently on display at Atelier 1022: Spelling Bee, a whimsical floor-to-ceiling visual poem in four languages that traces a young girl’s linguistic journey across continents; the German-language Illegible, incorporating a graphite portrait and the original poetry ‘chant’ that addresses identity through language; as well as the small-scale A-Mended Conversation cut from Mexican amate bark and embroidered with printed text from the Gibbin House manuscript, the medium’s traditional uses highlighting gender and class roles as defined by the novel’s fictional characters.

Gibbin House (2011) – Synopsis:

“In 1949, a former London safehouse for exiled artists and intellectuals is a virtual prison for the four men who remain, until they are jolted by the mysterious arrival from Vienna of a young Romanian mute. Precocious and damaged with secrets of her own, Anka unwittingly unearths the old grievances at Gibbin House as she struggles to forget unspeakable sacrifices and build a new life. Her unexpected friendship tests the men’s understanding of love and loss, and soon the residents are each forced to decide if they can put behind them a past that spans continents, or if some betrayals run too deep to forgive.”

Carola Perla is a Miami-based artist and author, born in 1977 to German-Peruvian parents in Timisoara, Romania.  She holds an M.A. in German Literature and a B.A. in Art History from Florida State University.  In 2002, she co-founded the LatinEPR Inc. Public Relations Firm, while also contributing as a sports columnist to upscale lifestyle magazine Tendencias.  She published Gibbin House, her debut novel on postwar exile, in 2011.  The same year, she launched the ATELIER 1022 Studio and Fine Art Gallery in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District.  Her first exploration in paper art was the installation Off the Page (2011), which combined the material culture of an author with a lighted paper sculpture of her novel’s last page.  Exhibited at ATELIER 1022 during Art Basel Miami 2011, the publicly-acclaimed installation gave rise to a series of multi-lingual paper sculptures and visual poems that address language, transience, and transculturation.  She is currently working on her second novel, Humboldt’s Riches, a semi-autobiographical ‘Heart of Darkness’ set in the remote Amazon region of Apurimac during Peru’s 1980 guerilla uprisings.

About Atelier 1022

 Atelier 1022 recreates the sense of an artistic community in a public space.  Atelier 1022 permanent exhibit showcases an array of fine art photography, drawings, installations and other mixed media works from resident artists Ellie Perla, Susana Perla, Carola Perla, and Carlos Rodriguez-Feo, and aspires to capture the gallery’s art community concept with a collection of elaborate canvases, dynamic color prints, and examples of rare photo processes.  Atelier 1022 invites art lovers to join in and celebrate beauty, colors, and rhythms in a place where art is made and polyglot gossip resounds off the walls.  Atelier 1022 Studio and Fine Art Gallery, 2732 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami. Websites here:,,, and; Tel: 786-385-6066.

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