"I’m inspired by strong women who are not afraid to demand their space and speak the truth."
We are thrilled to feature Chicago-based artist Molly Costello, who creates intricate and inspiring works of cut paper to tell stories of healing, connectedness, female strength, magic, and the natural world. Check out her interview below to find out more about her inspirations and goals as an artist.
Lily Myers: When did you start making art? What drew you to cut paper as a medium?
Molly Costello: It's hard for me to remember the beginning really. My mother is an artist so I had it around me from the start. I do remember as early as second grade feeling a connection with it. I recall bringing a book on how to draw animals to my school “reading days”. My teacher was not too thrilled about that. As for the paper obsession, that started randomly with a high school art class collage assignment. My teacher brought in a bunch of old patterned papers for the project and I just fell in love. At that point I really started to focus on my own work. I started working with bands and other artists my Jr. year in highschool but didn’t feel like I really found creative style until my sophomore year in college.
LM: Where do you find your inspiration?
MC: It transitions, with some central themes. The work I engage in outside of art really shapes it as well. I think a lot of my non-artistic work is focused around the fact that our world is broken and that we have a lot of work to do to fix it. In response, my art has become somewhat of a personal meditation on the theme that our world is beautiful too and healing. It's how I get through all the weight. How I find balance. As for inspiration I am very inspired by our garden and sharing food. I’m inspired by community living in this world that is so scarred by isolation. I’m inspired by strong women who are not afraid to demand their space and speak the truth. I am so inspired by the fact that we are so perfectly and similarly designed. We are all made of the same particles. There is so much more that makes us similar to each other then makes us different.
LM: You use a lot of images of moons, stars, and other images of the natural world. What draws you to these symbols? Why are these symbols important to you?
MC: You know, this is something I am still trying to answer for myself. It was not something I studied in depth but more so something I felt deeply drawn to. I can say I really like using moons as a symbol for natural cycles. We are so pulled out of our natural rhythms with electricity, an intensive and oppressive work culture (capitalism at large), drugs, technology… there is a lot of personal power lost there. I believe there is a lot of deep deep intelligence in each of us that is silenced and oppressed by our modern society. If we slow down and tap back into honoring our natural cycles we will tap into a power and a collective intuition that I think can heal this world and heal each other.
As for the stars, I find I use them more as a symbol of connectedness than anything else. We are so intricately a part of this vast vast universe. All made of the same stuff. It's so beautiful and so humbling. The stars in figures is my way of depicting this. I like to use constellations in people as a way to say “the light in me is connected to the light in you”. Something like that. I also like to invent constellations in people as a way to say that our own humble journeys are beautiful and inspirational too and deserve to be honored in the same ways that we honor the other astrological bodies.
LM: You also use a lot of images of women. Why do you feature women in your art?
MC: This is also something I started doing without thinking too in depth about it. I have a lot more options about it now but I think it just started off from the vantage point of speaking from my own experience as a woman. That was and is the truest way I can communicate about this world. Now I do it specifically because I create my art for women. There are too many messages uplifting men in this world and I am not about perpetuating that. I believe that women have amazing powers that have been silenced and I want to create pathways to rediscover that. Women are awesome! A growth area I would like to work on is depicting more trans/queer/gender nonconforming individuals.
LM: Are there messages you wish to convey with your art? Is there a mission or goal you have in terms of putting your art out into the world?
MC: I heard a Thich Nhat Hanh quote that I felt really connected to recently. It goes “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.” I think I am going to leave it there!