Vibrant Visions: Reyna Noriega’s Art Unveils the Soul of Afro-Caribbean and Latino Cultures
Creative work has a unique way of approaching matters of the heart and soul. When people fall short on words, the products of creative work can shine a bright light on culture. Whether it’s music, literature, or art, creative work has a flavor of its own.
Through her work, visual artist and educator Reyna Noriega has shown what happens when you imbue creative work with elements of your soul. To create is no easy feat, but Noriega makes it look flawless and accessible.
Her use of bright colors — representative of her Afro-Caribbean and Latino roots — plays against whatever stereotypes people might have of Miami-born artists.
Noriega seeks to highlight the vibrancy of both her cultures in a way that is authentic to her unique life experience
The freelance artist tells FIERCE that her use of dynamic and energetic colors is “in the fiber of [her] being.” Noriega’s culture has played a big part in how she would approach her creative work.
While she wanted to create work that would blend seamlessly within people’s homes, she couldn’t avoid adding colors that spoke to her.
“I think it’s always been embedded in me — the love for color, for vibrancy. Our cultures are so rich: whether it’s the food [or] whether it’s the music,” the Miami native began.
She continued, “I wanted to create something neutral enough to fit people’s home spaces, but I couldn’t do neutral colors. I couldn’t do things that were so muted because it’s not true to my culture.”
Noriega asserts, “We love color. We take care of our plants. It’s always around us. We are always tropical.”
Despite her success as a visual artist, Noriega didn’t begin her career as one. Rather, her career naturally progressed into it
But the Afro-Latina educator’s path to creating the kind of art you see at shows and in galleries wasn’t linear. She first began as a writer, hoping that through written prose, she would be able to find a fulfilling way to express herself.
Unfortunately, there was too much in Noriega’s soul and not enough words to help get it out.
“My first choice for creative expression was writing. It took me so many words to convey what I wanted to say, and sometimes [I] still [felt] misunderstood,” she asserted.
The artist and author continued, “So when I started to paint, and specifically when I started to do digital illustrations, I realized that you could kind of like convey an emotion or a subject in a way that it could resonate with different people.”
Painting gave Noriega a new vision of what meaningful creative work and art can be. It allowed her to create pieces that could speak to the individual experience of those looking at it.
“[People] can interject their own experiences into what they’re seeing visually. So I think that’s when it became something that I chose to use to communicate the things that I wanted to say to the world,” she tells FIERCE.
At its core, Noriega’s mastery of vibrant color is her way of uplifting her community in a way that doesn’t tie them to any one stereotype or trope
Latinos aren’t exempt from falling under classifications that disservice them as a whole. For this reason, creatives across all disciplines work tirelessly to help show a true portrayal of the Latino experience.
Noriega’s heart lies with her community. She wants them to take up space in rooms they weren’t allowed into before. The Miami native doesn’t want anyone to feel forced to fit into any box. She wants them to soar.
“I wanted my community to be able to see themselves uplifted and then also imagine more. I don’t want my art [to] even [constrict] them to these tropes that we ‘have’ to fit into,” she explains.
“It’s kind of like I’m taking my experience and my culture as a starting point, but then also opening the door for everything else that’s possible,” Noriega adds.
She hopes that others are able to see what is possible for them and for them to chase after it — with passion and heart. Noriega believes that this is the only way to diversify representation across mediums.
Because she’s used her cultural nuances as a starting point for her career, it’s opened up unfathomable opportunities for her
Noriega recently celebrated another major career milestone. During Miami Art Week, the visual artist and designer debuted her first-ever full-scope multimedia and multidimensional artwork installation in collaboration with nAscent Art New York.
Jen Wallace, co-founder and Director of Art at nAscent, acknowledges Noriega’s adept way of creating art.
“Over our 15-plus years doing this, we’ve seen many up-and-coming artists. Reyna’s voice speaks to the beauty of what it means to be human, and she brings her experience, culture, and gender to that conversation in ways people can enjoy,” Wallace admitted.
She continued, “Reyna has built a strong core, and her fans are legion. She stands head-and-shoulders above her contemporaries and is headed for even greater heights.”
Javier Marquis, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Nautilus Sonesta Miami Beach, where Noriega made her debut, echoes Wallace’s sentiments.
“Being a lifestyle hotel in the heart of Miami Beach, it’s important for us to amplify and support the works of our community. Reyna’s work is a great representation of our local culture,” Marquis said.
“As a Cuban American and Miami native, Reyna’s artwork captures the essence of the city while showcasing her own personal experiences, and we wanted to share her story with our guests,” he asserted.
Noriega admits that debuting her latest project during Miami Art Week was a “full circle” moment for her
As previously mentioned, Noriega’s path to success wasn’t linear. She didn’t start off where she finds herself now. As she told FIERCE, her path meandered a bit before she landed on art.
“Our journeys sometimes take meandering paths. When I first figured out that I liked art and I might want to do it professionally, I wanted to be a fine artist. So, I just wanted to paint and be in galleries,” she explained.
The author continues, “Through becoming a teacher and through freelancing and doing logos, I found a path that was, I won’t say easier, but there was less resistance than trying to break through the gallery space that I knew nothing about.”
“So, I feel like I’ve put so much work in these other spaces to bring respect to my craft that now it’s gone full circle to where I wanted to be. I’m able to have the support from nAscent to try things that I’ve wanted to try for a long time,” Noriega tells FIERCE.
When it’s all said and done, Noriega hopes folks walk away from her new artwork “committed to introspection.” She wants them to find authentic joy within themselves.
“I’m a Miami girl, so I credit Miami with so much of my aspirations for joy because if you are embedded in this culture, if you have the right friends, if you have the right money — you know joy,” she asserts.
“But if you are not doing the work internally, all of those good things can be negative things. They can be distractions. They can be superficial. So I think it’s very important for people to understand that joy cannot be surface level. It starts within,” Noriega concludes.