Nina Palomba, creator of the colorful realm known as Nina’s World, works across boundaries between street and pop art, graphic arts and design, painting, animation, fabrication, and murals to create a universe powered by love, creativity, shared experiences, and color, color, color. Her eyeball-grabbing style is cheeky, tough, and sweet, centering as she says the power of love above all. As an LGBTQ+ advocate, Palomba breaks down other kinds of boundaries too, engaging and supporting the community through murals, partnerships with nonprofits on thoughtful public programs, and leading student workshops. Today she kicks off the first all-online version of Secret Walls Academy Summer Camp as an All-Star Instructor.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
NINA PALOMBA: I’ve always had a creative streak. As a kid my time was filled with drawing, it was my favorite thing to do. I’m grateful to have grown up with supportive parents because they really pushed me to follow that starting at a really young age. I think drawing and making things is just part of who I am.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Love! It really is that simple. My work is a reflection of me and my life. I think it comes out subconsciously sometimes, but the common thread through all I make is love. I think my love stories have really fueled my journey whether that is good or bad. I also LOVE what I do, so everything I make I am proud to stand by as an extension of me and who I am.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I’m in the process of becoming an art therapist. So that is what I plan on doing alongside my art career. I have such a passion for people and my community and have a calling to follow that path. That’s part of the reason I was drawn to working with Secret Walls Academy. Guiding young creatives to find a path of inspiration is very appealing, especially now. I’m looking forward to what that career holds for me down the line!
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I did! I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I’m grateful for my experience in school, I think it made me into a thinker and a maker. I do believe my hands-on experiences from working professionally have made me into a well-rounded creative though. My best education has just come from trying things.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
L.A. is a very exciting place to be an artist. I have lived in several places and I feel like in Los Angeles I can really do all the things I love doing both creatively and beyond. I’ve been able to blossom here as an artist as well as start my career as a production designer and art director. It is a very positive place for me and it definitely inspires the colorful, positive notes in my work.
When was your first show?
I was in my first art show when I was 8. I remember it really well actually! I made a miniature stagecoach style wagon with all these little details inside. My mom helped me make it. It was on display at the National Wildlife Museum in Jackson, Wyoming, as part of an Oregon Trail themed show or something. Growing up in a small western town I didn’t really know much about the world of art or maybe even what being an artist even meant. I just loved making things! I remember being really proud that day.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I currently have a mural on display as part of Womanish, a women-driven show in Chicago. COVID has affected the programming a bit, but it is on view.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Alex Raymond. There isn’t an artist I admire more than him. He is iconic to the ear and style of art I love the most. I would have loved to talk about cartoons with him more than anything. Having artwork hanging in the same vicinity to his would be a true honor.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
I do! My music taste is across the board so it really depends on my mood that day. It varies from Shania Twain to The Fratellis to Paramore and pretty much everything in between.
Website and social media handles, please!