MARIA ESTRELA was born in Cascais, Portugal, and raised in a large extended family from Cape Verde, West Africa. Settling in Newark, NJ in 2002, she attended The Newark School of the Arts in 2008, where she was able to further develop, explore and broaden her interest in digital photography. Estrela’s photographs of nature and scenes from independent travels serve as a means of self-expression, escape, and self-healing. Photography is where she finds stillness and freedom, and a doorway to connect to her inner self.

While at The Newark School of the Arts, she met Andrew Cohen, a teacher, and mentor who had a tremendous influence in shaping her artistic eye. His support inspired her to go deep into herself and trust her instincts in exploring the magic of photography.

Traveling annually to culturally diverse destinations ( Greece, Morocco, Spain, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Cape Verde, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Canada, ) she seeks out places that remind her of home. Photography is her biggest passion and she invites the viewer into a place where he or she can find peace and happiness.

The college started when Maria met the Artist Mansa Mussa in 2018, in one of his college workshops. Since that first experience, collage/mixed media have become part of her artistic development.


I make art to heal and inspire myself and to transform the resilience and strength women carry in themselves into a visual form that encourages and empowers all women, from young to old. My collages reunite women with nature by placing them in landscapes, decorating them with found objects, and recontextualizing their power. I want to emphasize the beauty of nature and the natural beauty of all women. By paying attention to the changing seasons, I understand more deeply the seasons in my own life and connect the world around me to the phases in a woman’s life.