These Two Latina Designers Reinterpret Retail Signage

Latina Designers BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of americanexpress.com (left, Reyna Noriega; right, Mariell Guzman)

Inclusion, identity, and diversity manifest themselves in many ways. While we continue to struggle to see our fair representation on the big screen and in all spheres of the job market, some manage to make strides where we least expect it.

That’s the role played by Latina designers Reyna Noriega and Mariell Guzman, two artists who have reinterpreted American Express signage for retailers, reflecting on the theme “always welcome.”

The work of these two creatives is part of American Express’ initiative to allow stores to show their openness to all customers.

This initiative is particularly important after a new study commissioned by Amex from Morning Consult showed that for 78% of consumers surveyed when deciding where to shop, it is important to know that the store is welcoming or inclusive to all people. In addition, more than 80% of business owners in the same survey said they have made sure their customers know that they welcome all people.

The survey was conducted between June 2-14, 2021, among a national sample of 2,000 consumers in the general population with a household income of $50,000 or more and a national sample of 500 small business decision-makers.

BELatina spoke with Reyna and Mariell about their background and work. Here’s what they shared with us:

Do your heritage, and cultural background influence your art? If so, how?

Reyna: My cultural background is ingrained in everything I do and how I see the world. It accounts for my love for bright, vibrant color, images with movement, and uplifting women of color. 

Mariell: Absolutely! My work is colorful, vibrant, and rooted in my Mexican heritage. My color use/understanding is deeply rooted in my experiences in Mexico. The traditions of Mexican folk art and my experience of growing up in an environment filled with public art with vibrant colors and complex patterns shaped my understanding of how colors interact with each other and the power they have to affect/transform the spaces we immerse ourselves in.

Why is inclusivity important, especially from large brands such as American Express?

Reyna: If we are going to see the world move forward as one, we must first recognize that it hasn’t operated as a unit for a very long time. We must recognize those that have not always been included and treated equally and make space for them. 

Mariell: Inclusivity is so important to a community because it provides a safe environment where everyone’s diverse ideas, opinions, and morals are valued and part of the conversation. Creating a space where all humans feel respected, listened and valued helps to encourage people to thrive to their highest potential by having the freedom to be their most authentic selves. This results in a more unique and strong culture. When huge recognizable brands like American Express use their influence and platform to share the importance of these values, it causes a powerful impact that can inspire positive change worldwide.

What is your inspiration and motivation to create art?

Reyna: I love using my art to communicate my thoughts, ideas, and feelings. On a selfish level, it is a way for me to understand what is going on in the world or my world. When I share it with others, it makes space for us to reflect on our experiences’ similarities and dream for a brighter future together.

Mariell: My work stems from her experience growing up in two different cultures, the struggle with my identity’s duality, and the pressure to constantly translate/ adapt myself to the world around me. My process in developing my work is driven by chaos, spontaneity, and adapting to finding beauty in both cultures. I develop a series of contained and yet chaotic environments that resemble anthropomorphized natural phenomena through continuous intuitive interaction with materials. The idea that there’s a bit of chaos in nature, but everything always finds its place, is one I can relate to and constantly find inspiration to create.

Is there a particular artist who has inspired your artistic career?

Reyna: I’ve looked to many artists, especially women and women of color, as examples of what is possible for an artist and illustrator. Frida Kahlo, Malika Farve, Petra Eriksson, also artists that pushed the bounds of what was considered art, like Patrick Nagel, Roy Lichtenstein, and so many more. 

Mariell: Helen Frankenthaler is a big one for me. She was one of the first women artists I was introduced to from the abstract expressionism period. I admire her tenacity, experimental/playful painting process, and overall bravery to make huge scale paintings and make room for herself in the art scene in that time when the scene was male-dominated. Her story was extremely inspirational and motivated me to challenge myself with scale and enter the mural scene. 

Anything else you’d like to share with the BELatina News audience?

Reyna: I’m really proud of the work put into my new book releasing this December, “In My Cocoon.” It paints a full picture of what motivates the work as well as the journey to loving myself, grappling with identity, and rising above obstacles in my journey. I think it’ll be a great resource for others to see the magic in their own journeys. 

Mariell: Some advice for all creatives and dreamers no matter where you come from:

  • Trust your intuition, no matter what.
  • Always make room for experimenting and allowing unexpected results to occur in your work. That’s when the magic happens sometimes.
  • Accept that you still have a lot to learn. Always keep learning more. New skills or any sort of knowledge that can benefit you as an artist/entrepreneur/human being.