The Vibrant Art of Marissa Molina

Written by Sage Helene

Marissa Molina’s art is a kaleidoscope of vivid hues and dynamic strokes, illuminating the essence and auras of the diverse individuals she encounters daily. From a young age, art has been Molina’s language, her medium for connecting with people and encapsulating their personalities through color.

Born into a mixed heritage, with her father hailing from El Salvador and her mother from America, Molina experienced the challenge of assimilating into a predominantly white community during her childhood. “I felt like I stood out a lot immediately, and I tried to hold that back when I was younger,” she recalls. However, as Molina matured, she recognized the futility of conformity and instead felt a compelling urge to authentically embrace her identity, allowing it to inform her artistic expression. “There’s no point in holding back who I truly am,” she affirms, a conviction that resonates powerfully throughout her lively artwork.

Art by Marissa ‘Minhafofa’ Molina

Molina’s artistic journey is rooted in her fascination with people and their unique narratives. Reflecting on her creative evolution, Molina highlights her penchant for blending elements of human personality with various objects and environments to create dynamic, expressive compositions.

“I noticed looking back at the art I have made over time, there is always an amalgamation of a person and different objects or the type of environment to personify.”

“I am really inspired by people,” Molina affirms, emphasizing the central role of human experience in shaping her artistry. From her early years in college, she recalls experimenting with this union of person and environment, using it as a means to amplify the individuality of her subjects. “I noticed looking back at the art I have made over time, there is always an amalgamation of a person and different objects or the type of environment to personify,” she explains. Molina’s work celebrates the diversity of identity. In her paintings and large-scale murals, Molina offers a chance for people to see themselves in a new, bright, and positive light.

Pondering the ways people portray themselves to the world and what they allow the world to see becomes Molina’s focal point when exploring her subjects. Oftentimes, Molina digs deeper than the surface, wanting to explore more than just that outward appearance. She then illustrates the auras, the history, and the self-expression of a person, which is what lights up Molina’s canvas in arrays of purples, yellows, and blues.

Art by Marissa ‘Minhafofa’ Molina

Molina infuses each piece with a sense of resonance and depth, which enables her to capture the essence of her subjects. She utilizes striking strokes of color or personal details to create portraits that transcend representation on a surface level. This offers glimpses for viewers to see into the intricate weavings of human experience and expression.

During her college years, Molina spent her time exploring and experimenting while earning her BA in Departmental Art Honors and World History from the University at Albany, SUNY in 2010 and her MFA in Studio Art at The City College of New York, CUNY, in 2014. This period served as a canvas for her exploding creativity. While studying, Molina was able to hone in on her distinctive style, blending her love for realism with the playfulness of abstraction, to create colorful and captivating compositions.

Molina is not shy when it comes to the color palette of her paintings, noting, “It is a way I can connect with every person without simply depicting one type of skin tone.”

By looking at Molina’s portraits, viewers can see how her work comes to life. Her portraits not only capture the physical features of her subjects but instead expands upon the vibrant auras that are projected during her interactions. “The way people portray themselves and the way they see themselves is very interesting,” she muses, emphasizing her fascination with human perception she has had since she was young.

Molina weaves her love for art with her passion for community engagement. Her work serves as a platform for connection and understanding among the diversity of human beings. “I want to keep putting out this bright, playful world and fill the world with that kind of joy,” she states, emphasizing her desire to spread positivity and this idea of being seen through the artwork she creates.

Art by Marissa ‘Minhafofa’ Molina

Her mural project, entitled Tree of Life emphasizes this balance between incorporating community ideas and infusing them with her own artistic styles. This project was completed in August 2019 on the corner of 164th Street and Jamaica Avenue. As the director of the project, Molina discovered the beautiful unity of creating work with a community and working in collaboration that reflected those who lived in that neighborhood.

“I really found the balance of getting the ideas from the community and showcasing what they wanted to do, as well as putting my own art and spin on it,” she explains. For Molina, this collaboration was essential, ensuring that the mural authentically represented the voices and aspirations of the community.

Art by Marissa ‘Minhafofa’ Molina

Molina is not shy when it comes to the color palette of her paintings, noting, “It is a way I can connect with every person without simply depicting one type of skin tone,” she explains, highlighting her deliberate departure from realism in favor of capturing the essence of her subjects’ spirit. “If you look at skin, there are so many tones within it.” With each stroke of her brush is a testament to the multifaceted human experience, ultimately capturing what is at the core of every individual. “I am putting what is there, but at the same time, it is not necessarily realistic. It [the image] becomes more vibrant and shows more of the energy of the person.”

She enjoys the fluorescent colors because they project such an invigorating presence. “The colors are very much proud and bold, and in-your-face-crazy-colorful… I want it to be energizing and uplifting.” The radiant shades Molina chooses dominate her palette, enabling her to go beyond conventional boundaries of representation.

Art by Marissa ‘Minhafofa’ Molina


Molina most recently prepared to showcase her latest work at the New York Art Expo in early April. She is excited to continue celebrating the beauty of humanity by embracing the power of connection and shining light on our unique differences.

“This year, I am trying to put myself out there more. And I’m super proud of the work I’ve made for that [Expo] and I am super excited to show that off.”

Molina’s artworld is a celebration of life and the spirit of human expression. She skillfully blends elements of personality with various objects and environments to create dynamic compositions that celebrate individuality. Her portraits pulsate with life. Through her work, she seeks to explore the diversity of what makes us individuals while simultaneously unveiling the ways we are related, offering viewers a glimpse into the richness of life.

Art by Marissa ‘Minhafofa’ Molina at ArtExpo
Sage Helene is a writer and artist based in New York City. Having earned her MFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology, Helene brings a visual perspective to storytelling. With both her artwork and writing, Helene seeks to provoke thought and inspire dialogue. She currently writes for UP Magazine.