In the studio, VCUarts senior Naya Moore already looks like a professional. And this year, she’s being treated like one. As one of a select few students awarded a spot in the Painting + Printmaking department’s Merit Studio course, Moore has access to the solitude and professional guidance afforded to distinguished artists.
Merit Studio is both a seminar and a shared workspace in the Fine Arts Building where select students can create in a private, personal environment. In order for students to secure their spot, they must submit a portfolio and artist’s statement to a jury of full-time PAPR faculty members.
“There’s usually quite a bit of people that apply,” says Moore. “I know I was very nervous and intimidated by the process. Only 12 to 15 people get selected.”
Taught by a different professor each time, Merit Studio allowed her to share one-on-one sessions with Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director of PAPR Hilary Wilder, in addition to critiquing her peers’ work and discussing readings on contemporary art.
“It’s a great opportunity to be given your own space in the department where you can create,” she says, “but it’s still a shared space where you have a community of other artists that really get to know you and the work you’re creating.”
Before Art Foundation, Moore had an interest in Communication Arts, which still influences her work today. “I find that the majority of my work starts from my illustrations,” she says, “and then I take those into my paintings and prints.”
Moore’s paintings draw the viewer in; her figures sink into their backdrops and peek through curtained foregrounds. In her 2016 piece Abuela, streaks of paint cross over and shade the subject like wild foliage. Her bold choices of color and elusive, playful figures seem to reflect her own determination and the variety of people in her life.
After graduation, Moore plans on living with family in the Bronx, New York, to participate in the city’s iconic art scene. “My whole family including my parents are originally from the Bronx,” she says, “so now that I’m about to graduate I feel like it would be stupid for me not to take the opportunity and live with family while being a young artist that is fresh out of college.”
Moore says her work is about her heritage and her Afro-Latina experience. She feels that being around her grandmother and a predominately Afro-Latino community in the Bronx will benefit her work.
“Richmond and the School of the Arts really helped me to find myself as an artist and woman of color. I’m really happy and surprised with the work I’ve created through the years and I thank VCUarts for that.”