Elżbieta Kaleta was born, raised, and educated in Kraków (Cracow), Poland. She earned a Ph.D. in biology and worked in research, also finding time to do scientific illustrations. In 1981, she came to the United States for postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School and later settled with her family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When her sun’s illness forced her to stay at home, making art become her therapy and source of income. Suffering from several chronic health problems herself, Elżbieta has been struggling to be able to work in a continuous way all her life.
Elżbieta creates paper cutouts (called WYCINANKI in Polish) using the finest papers available and a pair of scissors. The majority of her work is deeply rooted in Polish folk art style and tradition. Elżbieta’s love of nature is visible in her designs brimming with fantastic flowers, birds, and animals. One of her favored subjects is Tree of Life cut out in countless ways, either in one solid color or in multilayered composition. Her art often raises spiritual and environmental issues. Using hand made papers, her own images and photographs, together with paint and calligraphy; places her art strongly in mixed media category. With the same techniques mastered for Polish traditional designs, she has developed her own vision of the Southwest spirit and captured it in her unique medium.
Over the years Elżbieta has participated in hundreds art shows, festivals, and exhibitions traveling around the USA and abroad to Japan and China. Her most important solo exhibitions were in Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque, NM and in Clffort Gallery, Parco I in Tokyo, Japan. Her art remains in numerous private and corporate collections and also in Albuquerque Museum, (Albuquerque, NM), Carlsbad Caverns National Park Museum (Carlsbad, NM) and Museum of Jintan (Jintan, China). She has completed two Public Art projects for the city of Albuquerque and two other collaborative projects for Corrales Community Recreational Center (Corrales, NM) and Sandia Mountains National History Museum (Albuquerque, NM). Her art has been featured in numerous publications. Elżbieta has devoted hundreds of hours to classes and demonstrations in schools, senior citizens’ centers and museums. She has been awarded grants from the New Mexico Arts Division’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program five times. Elżbieta has been honored as a Local Treasure by the Albuquerque Arts Business Association.
In my designs I employ shapes, textures, patterns and colors using the finest papers available, which are acid free and color fast. Some papers I paint or alter in different ways to obtain the desired effects. All the elements of my artwork are assembled on a museum board or on canvas with the use of acid free, paper safe, permanent adhesives. Most of my paper cutouts are created freehand with scissors.
My work falls into three categories:
- One-color, one-piece scissor paper cutouts,
- Multicolored paper cutouts in which basic shapes are decorated by the application of several layers of smaller cutouts to achieve vibrant color effects,
- Juxtapositions of graphic paper cutouts with collage backgrounds involving the use of different handmade papers, fabrics, my photography, embroidery, thread and small objects.
My subject matter originates from my life experiences, beliefs, passions and vivid imagination. Being raised and educated in Poland, studying biology, working in research, living in New Mexico, all resulted in:
- Bright, fanciful folk-art designs,
- Compositions showing admiration and respect of nature,
- Art pieces, which remind us about importance of love, peace, kindness, compassion, and friendship.