With the recent launch of the College's new brand, more than 20 billboards will be installed throughout the greater Philadelphia area—half of which will feature art by recent BFA Art Education graduate Nina Valdera ’20.
Valdera is a fine artist who creates light sculptures as a metaphor for life and a means of expressing spirituality. These works are abstract in design and are created with wood, LED lights and acrylic sheets. Valdera expresses a desire to create a calming environment for reflection and meditation by contrasting darkness with illumination.
During her time at Moore, Valdera saw many successes, such as debuting a light sculpture in Site/Sound: Revealing the Rail Park Festival. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Valdera transitioned to remote learning, an interruption that affected her during her student teaching placement. Despite many trials, Valdera graduated from Moore in May 2020, becoming the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college.
Valdera spoke with Moore's Social Media Coordinator Destiny Anderson about her unique journey of transitioning from the medical field into the arts, the meaning behind her works and what her aspirations for the future are.
Let’s talk about how your art will be featured on several Moore billboards. How does it feel knowing your art will be seen by thousands of people every day?
It feels surreal. My mind still can’t process that this is really happening. I could never have imagined that my artwork would one day be displayed on billboards. As an alumna of Moore College of Art and Design, class of 2020, I am humbled and honored that Moore chose my artwork for the billboards as part of their rebranding. I am excited to see the billboards!
Tell me more about the art piece that is featured on the billboards. Why are you drawn to light sculptures as a means of expressing yourself?
The art piece that was selected is actually a photo of the two sculptures I created for my senior thesis. “Synchronicity” is a six-foot-tall light sculpture of stacked cubes with iridescent acrylic sheets on the front panels. The cubes illuminate and transition into the colors of the rainbow. This sculpture was created at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted to use the colors of the rainbow as a symbolic sign of hope.
“Peaks and Valleys” is the second sculpture captured in the photo. It is made of four triangles that transition into complementary colors. This piece symbolizes the highs and lows in each of our lives.
Light represents life, energy and emotion. Working with light allows me to manipulate or evoke a feeling.
Your academic journey has been a unique one—before attending Moore, you worked as a registered medical assistant for a decade. Why did you change your studies to the arts? Was it an intimidating change?
While a nursing major, I took an elective class that reignited my passion for art. Although my intentions were to pursue a nursing degree, I could not ignore my true passion for art. I decided to resign from my full-time position at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children to pursue my degree in Art Education. Despite my initial apprehension, there were many signs that affirmed I was on the right path.
As of this May, you were the first person among your mom, dad and siblings to graduate college. How has that impacted you and your family?
Despite having to overcome many obstacles, receiving my diploma was the most defining moment in my life. To be the first college graduate in our family was a big deal. Although COVID-19 dampened the celebrations, my family was able to partake in the virtual graduation ceremony and shower me with their love and support.
How has living and studying in Philadelphia influenced you creatively?
I would say my middle school teacher, Miss Millman, introduced me to the world of art. At my school, we took many trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as other museums in the city. It opened my eyes to art history and cultures within our communities and that knowledge expanded during my time at Moore.
After graduating, you began a graduate program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Did Moore help prepare you for that transition?
Both the curriculum and input I received from the professors at Moore pushed me academically, conceptually and artistically. I gained much knowledge, confidence and abilities through our many conversations and critiques over the years that prepared me for this transition.
What has your experience transitioning to graduate school during a pandemic been like?
Vermont College of Fine Arts is a low-residency MFA program, so most of my work would be done from home. Our summer residency was virtual, which included Zoom meetings, lectures from scholars, filmmakers, artists and curators with many art critiques. It was a well-thought-out virtual residency and felt personable.
What are your plans for your creative future?
I want to remain active in the art community in Philadelphia. I would like to continue making art and expand on my ideas for light sculptures. My ultimate goal is to create permanent public art sculptures.
Do you have any advice for current Moore students?
Commit to your studies, work hard, use the resources that you have at Moore and enjoy your studio space. Above all, be aware that your professors are your most valued resources at Moore. For me, every moment was a learning experience for me at Moore.
(Photo featured: "Staggered," Nina Valdera, 2020. Wood, acrylic sheet, mirrors, LED lights. This piece was a work in progress for her senior thesis. Image has been cropped.)