Daring Origins: Gianna Paniagua, Mixed Media Sculptor

While many visual artists seek inspiration in the world around them, one 24-year-old is taking a more personal approach. Inspired by her experiences as a transplant recipient, artist Gianna Paniagua shines a fragile light on the human body and provides a voice for young artists living with disabilities.

Years before embarking on a successful career as an award-winning artist, young Gianna had already overcome one of life’s most challenging obstacles. She received a heart transplant at the age of 14 months for cardio myopathy. During her sophomore year of college, Gianna encountered the troubling beginnings of transplant rejection. Stricken with uncertainty, Gianna turned to art as a means of coping with her fears and understanding her identity. “It was an easy way to escape everything that was on my mind, but also a different way to present my story.”

Gianna fell in love with the art of paper cutting while enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh. The inquisitive artist was quickly drawn to the delicate nature of the medium. Gianna states that her experience as a heart transplant recipient lies at the root of everything she creates. “The paper itself relates to the body,” says Gianna. “It is fragile. It can decay just like our own bodies.”

A parallel exists between the severity of her ailment and the scale at which she creates. As Gianna has gotten older and her conditions have worsened, her work has grown larger. What she has planned for the future may be her largest and most challenging undertaking yet.

“It was an easy way to escape everything that was on my mind, but also a different way to present my story.”
Gianna Paniagua

Gianna describes her work as intimate, meditative, and truthful. Now 24 years old, she dares to share her story with the world in hopes of inspiring others to embrace adversity and empower other disabled artists.

Having graduated college, Gianna now works bi-coastally between Pittsburgh and San Francisco. She finds comfort and empowerment in the communities in which she’s established herself. With graduate school in her sights, Gianna expects her work to change significantly as she pursues a Master of Fine Arts Degree.

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