2022 Individual Artist Fellowships written over 5 separate images artistically arranged in vertical bars featuring artwork from or a portrait of a 2022 artist fellow

Kiara Florez


Photo of Kiara Florez
Photo: Kassandra Florez

Visual Arts: Painting

By: Gail Obenreder

I feel I’m sharing a piece of my soul with another with my art, and it’s been the greatest gift I can offer.”

Painter Kiara Florez was always involved in “artistic endeavors.” As a child she wanted to be a writer, “creating characters and worlds that didn’t exist” and writing stories while drawing her ideas. It was in high school – at age 16 – that Florez turned seriously to visual art. As she learned the fundamentals and explored a variety of media, she came to painting and discovered her style and artistic process.

A recent graduate of Delaware State University with a B.A. in studio art, Florez has already been seen in several exhibitions, was the Delaware winner of the 2017 Doodle4Google competition, and has had her work on view at the U.S. Capitol. Her imaginative paintings magically merge the figurative and the abstract, always informed by “nature, music, all forms of art, and dreams.”

The collection that garnered her the Division’s Fellowship is a series of acrylic paintings on canvas, colorful narratives that “explore spiritual thinking and imaginative worlds, using bold colors and wavy lines.” Both figural and abstract, her works are populated with exaggerated shapes in a vibrant color palette, a “loose interpretation of the human figure and nature” that carry Florez’ personal, spiritual messages.

painting with a female figure looking towards sun
“She Looked Toward the Sun,” 2021, acrylic, 40 x 30 inches
painting of figure holding midsection with hands around her
“Turmoil at the Core,” 2021, acrylic, 40 x 30 inches
painting with male figure holding scissors behind figure with long hair
“Cutting Loose Ends, 2021, acrylic, 40 x 30 inches

The young artist has lived in Delaware for six years, but she was born in Bronx, New York, the oldest of four children. With her family, Florez has also lived in Florida and Maryland, coming to the First State in 2016. To finance her college education, she worked in retail and interior painting, for a time commuting to Philadelphia. But since receiving the Fellowship and securing a new job in Delaware, she’s planning on “staying here to continue my artistic path.”

While painting, Florez listens to music and works near a window with a view to nature, two things that consistently spark her imagination. She is also inspired by “any kind of art,” thanks to mentors and friends who afforded her new experiences, and she is especially grateful to her art teachers as she carries on “the knowledge and experience given from them.”

Based on intuition, her works begin with a faint idea of “how I want the painting to come to life.” But that process is often challenging. Since a work in progress can “change form and go in any direction it pleases,” it can require her to overpaint or even begin again. But while each work springs from a personal message, she leaves any “interpretation and analysis” up to her viewers and is especially gratified when her paintings “speak not just to the mind, but to the soul as well.”

Remaining from her earlier artistic explorations is a love of jewelry making, a hobby to which she returned during COVID quarantine, when she had “a lot of time to think about my artistic path.” Florez was still in college during the pandemic, painting her senior project, and those works “became a visual representation of my personal journey . . . and a healing process.”

Florez is enormously grateful to receive an Emerging Artist award. “Getting the acceptance email was honestly the best surprise of my life!” The award has given her “the biggest step forward in expanding my artistic career.” She plans to resume painting (halted for a bit after her 2021 graduation), trying new techniques, expanding her career, and collaborating with other artists. And the Fellowship will also afford her a solo exhibition, a “dream come true.”

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