Confidence is everything in the art world, so when visual artist Natasha Powell Walker was left to do her first exhibit unexpectedly alone, she had a decision to make. She could either succumb to the fear of being criticized, or she could fight for her moment in the spotlight with confidence and grace — the exact reason she had been drawn to creating art.

So she fought.

“The exhibit gave me the confidence to share my story and what I work on,” Walker says, “which is what it means to be a woman and how confidence affects us.”

From that point on, she continued to display her artwork at various galleries, showcases, and festivals. In 2011, she founded Edith Grey Designs, named after her grandmother, to share her art and message of women as strong, vibrant individuals with the world.

“My grandmother always carried herself with grace, honor, and integrity,” Walker says. “She had 13 grandchildren, and she conquered the world in her own way.”

Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in 2007 with a degree in fashion merchandising and design. She worked in graphic design and merchandising for several corporations, but found her true satisfaction came from her own artwork.

Her style is unmistakably bold, with vibrant patterns and popping colors, reflecting the attitudes and personalities of the women she depicts. These women are strong, much like the subject of Fierce, one of the first works in her #SexyNotSilent series.

“The series focuses on the challenges that women face and celebrates the greatness that comes with being a woman,” Walker says. The exhibit was originally shown at an art gallery at Duke University in 2018; it’s now on display at the Holtzman Alumni Center at Virginia Tech through May 1.

Walker currently works as manager of Urban Land Institute Triangle, a nonprofit devoted to the responsible use of land.

“Right now I work in the real estate industry, which is white male dominated,” she says. “One of the ways I challenge the traditional narrative of women is by continuing to say, ‘I want to work in this field.’ It may not be the most diverse field, but I’m still going to show up and not be afraid to be the only woman or person of color in the room.”

These sentiments are certainly seen in Walker’s art. By giving her artwork such titles as Freedom, Loud, Bad Ass, and even F*ck Failure, it’s clear that she will not be silenced.

The next step for Walker is to keep creating, keep inspiring and, of course, never keep silent. She has a message she wants young African American women and girls to take away from her artwork: “Never let anyone intimidate you, and be true to who you are. Knock down as many doors as you need to get wherever you want to go. Nobody can put any limitations on you but you.”

Written by John McBride ’21