Woman of Audacity: Daisha Maria-Breona paints with purpose
Daisha Maria-Breona’s first introduction to painting came as a high school senior in 2012, but it wasn’t for another decade, following a move to Kansas City in 2020, that she began to blossom as a creative.
“It wasn’t until September of last year that I took it seriously. I’d gone through a bit of a mental break, and painting was what really helped get me grounded again,” Maria-Breona says.
Maria-Breona was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in April 2022. A little over a year later, the 28-year-old, third-year Kansas City resident has elevated herself to the point where she now produces and sells outstanding works under her New Dai Art Studio umbrella—this on top of working a full-time job as a highly educated professional Black woman.
“It came from a lot of PTSD. It came from anxiety, depression, and all of that mixed together. And it was very, very, very hard to focus or to do anything to even stop crying for a long period of time. During those really down times is when I would paint, and it would help me,” Maria-Breona says.
A “military brat” originally from Jersey City, Maria-Breona’s parents settled down in the Midwest during their retirement, Maria-Breona explains. In May 2020, she found herself midway through divorce proceedings, and a move to KC seemed like the right fit for her new chapter.
“Sometimes people are like, ‘I’m so sorry,’” she says of abolishing that particular manifestation of holy matrimony. “I’m not.”
That disarmingly charming bluntness is also a characteristic of Maria-Breona’s work. The Rutgers and Liberty University alum has already carried a bit of that around with her. Her paintings—vivid expressions of femininity, Black empowerment, and mental health awareness—echo these inclinations.
“I’ve always been a little rebellious, but for the greater good. That’s why I got my master’s in leadership—because I thought a lot of leaders that I had were idiots. I think my art kind of represents that in some ways,” Maria-Breona says.
The works are “rugged, urban, with Jersey City vibes.” She’ll often use cardboard as a base, complimenting it with monochrome, vibrant colors and, often, expressively impressionistic flowers.
One exemplary piece is titled “Bloom.”
“[The subject] has her face, her mouth is there, but her eyes and everything else are covered. It’s just meant to encourage you to grow in a beautiful way, no matter what it is. And obviously, the flowers are messy—so it’s not going to be perfect, the way you grow,” Maria-Breona says.
Another work, “Hue: For Troubled Boys,” was inspired by a song by KOTA the Friend and addresses a particularly conscientious message on men’s mental health and, more pointedly, on that of Black males.
“It talks about Black men’s mental health and how it is okay to be vulnerable. It has a man just kind of in a relaxed, almost like a meditative state, [and] he’s all in blue. Blue can represent peace, it can represent depression, it can represent a lot of different things. I want any man to be able to feel like they can… be human,” Maria-Breona says.
Some of her best work thus far includes pieces depicting influential subjects ranging from Nas to Frida Kahlo, Angela Davis, Billie Holiday, Andre 3000, and Big Boi. Several of these fall under her Woman of Audacity series—an impassioned collection that has sold well thus far.
“I try to make statements of passion in my art, and I want someone to think when they’re looking at it,” Maria-Breona says. “Why is that facial expression used? Why are the colors used? Why is it kind of chaotic in the background?
The latter consideration, chaos, plays an important role in Maria-Breona’s artistic progression.
“At first, I was scared of really messing anything up. It would take me the longest time just to draw a line because I just wanted to be so perfect,” she says of her former self.
It’s a sensation that any artist who is truly putting forth one’s weight in their endeavors knows intimately, and it took Maria-Breona a decade or so of working through her passions, strengthening her revolve and agency as a creative, to get to where she’s at today.
“I’m finally in a place where these are original pieces, there’s a lot more freedom in it. I always say I have, like, a structure. So you can see the face pretty clearly. But the background is usually some kind of graffiti or palette knife. I can allow myself to just be messy in a sense, and I didn’t allow myself to do that before. I find that authenticity is actually what people gravitate toward a lot more. So that’s kind of how it evolved,” Maria-Breona says.
Maria-Breona has shown her work at Art Garden KC and other events in the area. She also has an online shop and takes commissioned pieces.