Born to Haitian parents and raised in Miami's melting pot, 18-year-old artist Nadia Wolff has come of age in a cultural milieu. Her unique experience and identity have informed her powerful, personal work, which concentrates on self-portraiture through embroidery, painting, and poetry.
"I try to make work that examines the intersections of class, race, sexuality, and religion in shaping my particular culture," she explains. "Miami is a hub of different, almost disparate cultures, and I'm also a reflection of that."
In the city's multiculturalism, she sees many contradictions. "I think it's a place where you can see yourself reflected and also not reflected. It's both odd to be different and completely mundane because there are so many diverse perspectives here."
Theotokos Study (Reinvention of Communion Dress Silhouette)
Courtesy of Nadia Wolff
Already one of the city's rising art stars, Wolff was named a 2016 Presidential Scholar in the Arts; 2016 YoungArts finalist in visual arts and design arts; and Gold Scholastics Art & Writing Awards Winner in Writing.
Her body of work seems particularly relevant now, when so much of the nation is embroiled in issues of race, class, and sexuality. "I am marginalized because of my race, sexuality, and gender, but I also experience privilege because of my class and education. I try to shed light on aspects of my identity that aren't always offered a voice."
The embroidery she uses, for example, is a nod to female craftwork throughout history. While women were historically prevented from participating in the fine arts, they channeled their abilities into creating handmade goods. "The kind of work they were allowed to make was more hobby work rather than painting," she says.
Embroidery, photo transfer on muslin and organza (2015)
Courtesy of Nadia Wolff
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One of her newest pieces is a press-on nail kit she embroidered with one of her own poems. Another piece, titled Meditations on Mary, features a poetic response to the Hail Mary — a reference to her early years in Catholic school. "I align my sexuality with my Roman Catholic heritage and treat it not as contradictory but as complimentary in shaping who I am. I consider both equally important in terms of my values."
At her former school, Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH), she founded the Gay Student Alliance and is passionate about helping LGBTQ students. Currently, she's enrolled in the Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) dual-degree program. Eventually, she hopes her work brings people together in a bigger way. "I want to get my work to a point where it's not just introspective, but becomes a community-building tool."
In the aftermath of the Orlando shootings and in the midst of the crisis in race relations, her work speaks firsthand to many of the issues the nation is facing. "Looking at the lives of people who are affected, listening to their narratives, and attempting to humanize them is incredibly important."