Cover Feature

Reyna Noriega: A Career Found Through the Love of Art

Photo courtesy of Alecia Soto

Born and raised in Miami to a Cuban father and a Bahamian mother, Latina Artist Reyna Noriega grew up in a city surrounded by a heavy art influence. As a young adult, Noriega has seen her own art exhibitions, designs on buildings, large corporation collaborations and so much more. Her influences allowed her to accomplish what other artists dream of. Noriega’s work centers around her experiences as an Afro-Caribbean artist as well as that of other people’s journeys, specifically women of color. Living in Miami, art is on every corner; culture is embedded in the street art on buildings and sidewalk sculptures, architecture, museums and galleries.

Noriega’s father was a full-time baseball player, but art was his first love. Retiring when she was born, her father fell back into his creative side. During her childhood, Noriega watched her father’s art come to life, from his sketchbook to logos, signs and t-shirts for sports. Although he retired professionally, his own art career had just begun.

“Looking back at it now, I feel that’s where I found out that my art can center the things, people and places I love,” Noriega said. While her passion for art was mostly forgotten throughout elementary and middle school, high school was when she returned to the craft and saw it blossom. At the International Baccalaureate Program, Noriega’s student life turned more and more to art, as it proved to be a release from her rigorous academic program.

Although her father was her true inspiration for art, Noriega also credits other artists that permitted her to find her style. Patrick Nagel, Henri Rousseau, Roy Lichtenstein, Claude Monet and other artists were doing things outside the norm that gave art permission to expand beyond what people already knew. Each artist plays with muted tones with added pops of color throughout each painting. Because of this, each artist, including Noriega, can draw the viewer in.

“It’s [art] finally getting the credit it deserves in defining culture, defining historical moments and communicating things,” Noriega said. “Every aspect of our lives, art touches. It drives everything.”

Noriega spent a period of her life shifting, focusing on herself inwards and who she was. A big switch for her was through her fashion style. Playing it safe with neutral tones to not stand out became wearing colors and wanting to be bold. Wearing new patterns and bright colors fed her creativity, which manifested in her art alongside elements that play homage to women of color with pieces that include spotlights on her hair and other bold styles.

“Once I put my fashion style into my artwork, it made me feel more seen,” Noriega said. The colorful tones with pops of neon and patterns in her clothing seamlessly transfer to each canvas. Before this, Noriega always felt as though something was missing.

Some of Noriega’s pieces that express her fashion inspiration are “Our Garden,” “Head Held High,” “Girls Day Out,” “Genesis” and “Girls Trip.” A common theme links each piece: the power, individuality and womanhood of a woman of color’s identity.

“Everything I make has the common goal to make people sit down and take their life’s joy seriously wherever they’re at,” Noriega said. “I want people to have as much peace as they can in a world that is always crushing us.”


Noriega’s journey included many steps to get to the art career she has made for herself. In high school, a sparked interest in her dad’s film camera led her to an internship at the MoCA, Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami. While she was in a photojournalism internship, she met many others in her field and learned about their high school art programs, which led to taking her own in junior year. A picture of Taylor Swift she drew in the art program stood out to everyone and it was then she saw firsthand the excitement of others through her art.

As Noriega moved through life, her classes and internships with Art Basel and ArtNexus showed her that her love of art could be turned into a viable career path. “I was ultimately so happy in art spaces with other artists, and being able to communicate in the same language and have people resonate with it was very important to me,” Noriega explained.

With each internship, Noriega loved it all. Through set up and break down, Noriega saw behind the scenes of the art shows hosted in Art Basel and ArtNexus. Noriega kept an open mind through all galleries and owning her own is a goal Noriega often contemplates. “I love the idea of owning a gallery,” she said. “Being around that community of art lovers always made me feel really good.”

Much like other artists, Noriega can’t pinpoint her favorite piece of art, though she sits with what she recently created for her exhibition with Art Basel.

Prior to the exhibition, Noriega felt apprehensive about her creations, but knew she had to be brave and find a style. So she took this time to challenge what she had known. The pieces that came out on the other end of her block merged how she creates art for others to feel joy, although a lot is going on in her mind that requires her to keep the joy on the surface.

Noriega has designed for big corporations such as Old Navy, Starbucks, Target and Goody. One of her most popular prints, “Aqua Womxn,” was the feature design for Old Navy’s 2021 Black History Month t-shirt where they sold 50,000 shirts in just over two weeks.

With every collaboration, Noriega feels grateful to have had a part in it. “It means so much because of the impact it’ll have and what it shows to other artists as far as what’s possible,” Noriega said. More importantly, her collaborations bring representation to the companies’ customers as they bring a natural diversity to make people feel more included. Representation matters in art to push culture forward. “Art resonates a lot when you’re not having to scream, fight and beg people for it. Rather, it’s represented in a beautiful piece of artwork.”

Although these large corporations stand out, public, large-scale murals are among her favorite to create. Noriega’s art with Warby Parker and Brookfield Place are two that come to mind.

“I’ve been able to witness kids and young people looking at the art and what it represents in awe,” she said. “I’ve had parents tell me their kids haven’t taken off their Old Navy shirt.”

To give back to the art community and all those within it, Noriega feels it’s crucial to pay it forward with all that she’s been able to achieve. She works with organizations and clubs with disadvantaged people to bring art resources to those who need them. Noriega sees herself as an open book and a resource for those who need it to share what she’s learned.

For the years ahead, Noriega plans to keep herself open to doing more. Her interests in fashion, writing and design have allowed her to expand her projects and bring her ideas to life when she’s stuck in one area. To celebrate Black History Month, Noriega has something in the works and is excited to see future plans. Follow along with Noriega’s journey and artwork as she brings representation to life on all canvases.