As an architecture student, Marryam Moma found it easier to understand concepts and brainstorm designs and ideas for class projects and assignments through art collages.
The more time she spent tearing out pieces of magazines and cutting unique designs from paper, the more she realized she could use this medium to make art, rather than just plan out pieces.
“I grew up in a very artistic home,” said Moma, a 2006 architecture alumna. “My mother has been a practicing architect for over 27 years and so definitely art and art practices have been a part of my livelihood, my lifestyle, from a very young age.”
Before the 2020 presidential election, Moma created “Vote,” a mural of former President Barack Obama facing the American flag with preserved pink and red flowers pressed onto the sides, surrounding his back, to remind and encourage Black voters that their votes matter. On March 24, the mural was featured in season 1, episode 9 of “Bel Air,” a reboot of the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and an episode in season 8 of “Black-ish,” a comedy series on ABC.
Moma was simultaneously ecstatic and humbled when “Bel Air” and “Black-ish” emailed her asking permission to use her artwork, she said.
“It reinforces again that I am on a purposeful journey with the art,” Moma said. “It’s just such an incredibly thrilling experience to be able to share my work on such platforms.”
She began making “Vote” in October 2020 and displayed it publicly in Atlanta to encourage residents to vote in the upcoming election. She used Obama in her piece because he is an important political figure and used flowers to represent positivity, reconciliation and the future, Moma said.
“I wasn’t saying vote for this person or that person but to definitely make your choices and your voice heard,” Moma said.
Although the mural is not referenced in either episode, Moma hopes people will notice it and feel empowered, she said.
Moma makes collages that focus on Black bodies and usually incorporates flowers as a motif, she said.
She sold her first piece to a family member before she started making art professionally. She began taking her art more seriously in 2015 by working in an art studio and decided to focus on bringing her vision to life instead of making her art marketable, Moma said.
She spent much of the early stages of her career as an artist working with local venues in Atlanta, trying to make a name for herself.
In 2019, Moma showed her work in ARTiculate, an annual art show in Atlanta that showcases new artists and helps them network, and met Charly Palmer, an artist, who helped her determine pricing for pieces, where to showcase and how to stay true to her voice in her art, he said.
“Something to me that was very apparent from the very beginning — that this person could make a living as an artist,” Palmer said. “She handles herself in such a way that she’s got, I think, all the qualities that it takes to be successful in this field.”
Tiffany LaTrice met Moma four years ago when Moma joined TILA studios to connect with other Black women artists in Atlanta, and in 2019 selected Moma for the Garden Fellowship, a year-long program that includes national exposure during Art Week in Miami, Florida.
LaTrice selected Moma because she likes the precision in Moma’s work, which is unusual in collages, said LaTrice, the founder of TILA Studios, an art collective that promotes art by Black women and equality in the art world.
“We sold out all of her artwork on site in Miami—one of her pieces even got sold to a collector in Germany,” LaTrice said. “So that kind of just launched her international art career. She just continues to flourish to this day.”
Moma wants to continue creating art about important issues that will remain relevant and make a difference in people’s lives, she said.
“I’m just looking forward to the journey,” Moma said. “I’m so in love with collage so I just can’t wait to see what’s next. My best piece is yet to come.”
Editor’s Note: This story was changed to reflect that The Temple News could not confirm what episode of “Black-ish” that the “Vote” mural appeared in.