Reyna Noriega follows the little lights of joy in life. And she puts them into her art.
Her illustrations are full of soft lines, soft curves and vibrant reddish orange, reddish, green colors that seem to breathe and move. Women of color are the center of attention of many parts of it. All women bring out power, grace, strength, beauty. They are Noriega’s way of capturing and sharing joy with others, especially women who see themselves reflected in her art.
FIU alumni – full time artist and author – has probably shared more joy over the past year than he could have dreamed possible. At just 28, Noriega has been a cover artist New Yorker AND Scientific Journal. She also designed a special edition blouse with Old Navy.
A little over a year ago, Noriega’s life looked very different. She had just taken a step of confidence, becoming a full-time freelance artist after years of working in various jobs.
Noriega Road has been full of explorations, what she calls “following the feeling”. She graduated from FIU with a diverse set of skills – majoring in juvenile psychology in English and art. She says she has always kept everything she learned at FIU, that this has helped at every stage of her journey – when she was an art teacher at the Everglades Preparatory Academy in Homestead, a creative director for a startup, and, even now , when she is working with clients.
Those first months of independent life were hectic. Noriega took over as much work as possible. She designed album covers, posters, logos. Prints sold of her paintings and illustrations. Participated in various speaking engagements and networking events. She was also working on her second poetry collection In Bloom.
During this time, Noriega’s dog – a white schnauzer named Pepper – had four puppies. She took it as a sign to slow down. Stop Noriega told her friends that if they wanted to see her, they could come and pet the puppies, but she would not go out or leave the house.
From this time of birth came another kind of birth and a new beginning for Noriega art.
“In those moments of calm and reflection, I was thinking about what kind of art I want to create – how I could put my vision and myself in my work in a way that other people could benefit from,” Noriega said.
When she was not caring for the puppies, she was painting. Without all the hustle and bustle of life, Noriega’s unique, unmistakable new style emerged.
Sisterhood (Credit: Reyna Noriega)
“Much of my work stems from not seeing enough images of women of color in museums or galleries – or thinking again about when I saw them then and what messages they portray. Mostly, they are describing war and trauma – the women who carry the world on their backs, “Noriega said.” I wanted to create something where we could feel strong, beautiful, elegant and celebrate the softer sides of ourselves. “
With this new beginning, Noriega wanted to take the next step. A really brave one.
She bought a plane ticket to Paris. On March 16, 2020, she was to leave Miami for six months. She planned to travel around Europe while expanding her art career.
The timing seemed perfect. The rent was in her apartment. The puppies had gone to good and loving homes. Then, the pandemic bypassed its plans. With nowhere else to go, Noriega moved back to her parents’ house.
The future that Noriega imagined disappeared.
However, a few months later, it seemed like everyone knew her name. Everything she expected to happen in her career while in Europe eventually ended up happening – in her own way and in her own time.
Esperanza and Aqua Womxn (Credit: Reyna Noriega)
An incentive to support and elevate black artists came after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police. Noriega’s work gained widespread recognition. She gained thousands of new followers on social media. The companies wanted to work or collaborate with him.
But even with all the success – the thing she had worked for for years – she could not shake the weight of life. She was struggling with so many conflicting, difficult feelings.
“There was uncertainty about the pandemic. “It was a reminder of the state of racism in America – and how we did not fully account for it as a society,” Noriega said. “Everything was so traumatic.
Through it all, however, Noriega did what he has always done. She continued to draw and paint. She continued to create. She asked for joy – to bring it to others through her art when they really needed it most.
“Happiness is everyone’s firstborn right. I believe that you will be more successful when you are in line with what your passions are and what you are good at “, said Noriega. “It starts with constantly nurturing your interests and investigating the things that bring you joy – and then getting closer to those things.”
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