From Rachel Nania and Luis Gomez.
When navigating your way through an arts community, it’s important to develop a brand for yourself – something distinctive that sets you apart from other artists. One local artist took this idea literally. Instead of developing a brand for herself, DC-based artist, Diana Cruz, brands her art with a custom device.
The idea of searing her name into her art came from stories relayed to Cruz from her Salvadoran father, who, growing up, would brand his horses and cattle in El Salvador. Designed in the shape of lips, Cruz’s custom brander puts her mark on her love of art, a skill she developed at an early age.
A daughter of two Salvadoran immigrants who settled in Takoma Park, Maryland, Cruz spent much of her childhood drawing to help her grandmother, a dress-maker, outline human figures and dresses from magazines.
Cruz eventually relocated to California, but came back to DC for a short vacation in 2009 — and she never left. While on vacation in DC, Cruz helped organize a launch party for Ready Set DC at Long View Gallery. She was asked to contribute a piece to the evening’s show. Her artwork was seen by 900 people and sold that evening. For Cruz, the show was an artist awakening. She continued to create after that evening, and developed a series of paintings that kept selling.
Cruz decided to stay in the city, and settled into a studio on U Street, below Local 16. The owners of the local establishment, who have been good friends with Cruz for a long time, offered Cruz the space, as well as the opportunity to showcase her art on the walls of the restaurant.
Cruz is continuing her partnership the owner, Aman Ayoubi, who recently commissioned the artist to work on recycled pieces for his new restaurant, Tropicalia. For this venture, Cruz hand-painted more than 60 chairs, giving the new space a Sixties vibe.
A Borderstan resident for almost three years now, Cruz’s art often reflects her home and familiar surroundings. Many of her paintings allude to her love for the city, with images of Metro maps, DC flags and cherry blossoms sprinkled throughout her work. In her pieces, Cruz uses mixed media, experimenting with different materials to produce different textures.
“Experimenting is part of what every artist should do,” explained Cruz.
In addition to designing the décor for Tropicalia, Cruz is also working on a series of continuing pieces of faceless paintings engaging in everyday activities. Cruz describes the series as day-to-day life without a connecting feeling. Unlike Cruz’s experiences, life for her has been a series of connections between supportive friends and family, and she contributes much of her success to her support network.
When she is not working on her current projects, Cruz teaches drawing classes at Living Social once a week. “I find it fulfilling in every way; I learn so much when I am teaching,” said Cruz.