Nia (she/her) is a painter from The Bronx exploring the beauties and complexities of black life. Her Afro-Latino and Caribbean background, along with her New York City community, are sources of inspiration for her practice. Nia would like to see more art collectives and galleries that are willing to support emerging black talent.
What medium(s) do you work in?
Mainly painting, I want to get more into sculpture and other mediums but I love painting more than anything else.
What are the main themes you wish to explore?
Generational trauma and just how traumatic it is to be Black in America in general. The beauty of Black culture, through hairstyles, clothing, music and etc. Black Love (both romantic and platonic) and how it has changed me for the better. Most importantly my work covers how life is a series of transformational periods.
“I feel like there’s many opportunities for us to come together and support other New York creatives and a lot of people don’t take that. Maybe that’s because there are so many creatives in our city that people feel intimidated if there’s another person with a similar talent to theirs.”
How long have you been painting and how did you get started?
I’ve only been painting for about four years now. It was honestly a last minute decision; I originally was going to study psychology. I knew that I enjoyed doing creative things, and while I enjoyed psychology I couldn’t see myself doing it as a career. So I decided to go for it and start creating an art portfolio to submit to different colleges in my senior year. A lot of people thought this was a dumb move, I knew I would prove them wrong though.
What inspires your practice?
Black people will always inspire me. I want to depict all the everyday beauties of Black life as well as the many complexities of it. Being from New York has allowed me to experience so many different Black cultures living side by side and see how wonderfully intertwined we all are despite where we come from (i.e: the Caribbean, America, Africa, Latin America, etc).
Being based in NYC, what are your views on the city’s creative scene? How about the creative scene in your Uptown/Bronx community?
I feel like there’s many opportunities for us to come together and support other New York creatives and a lot of people don’t take that. Maybe that’s because there are so many creatives in our city that people feel intimidated if there’s another person with a similar talent to theirs, and I feel this especially with Black creatives. So I get excited when I see collectives created to unite and support Black creatives.
There is a large art scene in the Bronx that I need to be more involved in, and I try to connect with as many creatives from my borough as possible. I’m involved in art communities from all the boroughs though.
In what ways has your immediate community influenced your practice?
I’m Afro-Latina and Caribbean and my community reflects that combination so I feed off my surroundings a lot. These are people who look like me and experience similar things to me so I feel like it’s my duty to represent them. My paintings are little bits and pieces of my life and the community around me and there’s still so much to unpack.
You recently completed your thesis project—congrats! How did it feel to culminate this project under the pressures of COVID? Did your school do anything to accommodate artists?
Thank you! I feel extremely accomplished. I’m a person that gets easily overwhelmed so it was a lot for me to motivate myself to create artwork during a time like this. My school honestly didn’t do enough to accommodate us. Imagine having a six-hour painting class on Zoom, it was more distracting than anything. Some professors even doubled the work or just weren’t empathetic to students at this time at all. A lot of people just gave up this semester and I don’t blame them at all.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Kerry James Marshall is a huge influence of mine, the biggest actually and he was the influence for my thesis paintings. I also love Kara Walker, Lorna Simpson, Kehinde Wiley, Barkley L. Hendricks, Betye Saar, Carrie Mae Weems, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and so many other amazing Black contemporary artists.
“These are people who look like me and experience similar things to me so I feel like it’s my duty to represent them. My paintings are little bits and pieces of my life and the community around me and there’s still so much to unpack.“
What support systems do you wish were in place for black artists?
I want more collectives for Black artists. I want more galleries and organizations that specifically want emerging Black artists. More grants for Black artists. More art programs for primarily Black schools so more Black children are encouraged to be creatives. I could go on and on with this topic.
Have you encountered any obstacles as an artist?
I experience a lot of people not taking my profession seriously, I think a lot of creatives can relate to that. I deal with a lot of creepy male creatives, as you could imagine. I’m also very cautious about how far I wanna go with the narratives in my artwork due to how it’ll be received by non-black audiences but I could care less about that now and that’s the mindset fueling breakthroughs in my work right now.
Where do you see yourself and your practice in the future?
I see my work in museums, I see me creating a collective or something similar to support emerging Black Artists. I see myself finding multiple ways to create income from my talents, including tattooing.
Provide a few tips for young artists
Constantly try new things. Don’t take every opportunity thrown at you. Know your worth, don’t undercharge for your work. Don’t let anyone belittle you for being a creative. Take a business class if you can. Don’t take things personally, continue to work and you’ll attract the right people. We’re all a little uncomfortable with posting our work, it’s a form of vulnerability to post anyway. Focus on the people who support you, not the amount of likes you get. Look at different types of artwork, just because it isn’t your style doesn’t mean it can’t still inspire you.