Cruz Control: An interview of LGBTQ artist Pierce Cruz

Photos Courtesy of Pierce Cruz

PrideIndex recently chatted with mixed-media artist Pierce I. Cruz. His art expresses his experiences, thoughts, and imagination through figures, colors, and patterns. “My medium includes painting, drawing, and photography,” he said.  

Pierce has done freelance work with Chicago Children’s Theatre and as a teaching artist for Green Star Movement. Currently, he works as a part-time after-school art instructor for the Salvation Army and Art on Sedgwick, where he helps children and teens with art activities and projects in Old Town and the Near West Side.

Cruz will have his first post-collegiate solo exhibition at the Center on Halsted on February 3 – April 2, 2023. An Art Gallery Reception will take place on February 3, 2023, from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. The suggested donation is $5. Click here to RSVP.

PrideIndex (PI): Introduce yourself. And tell us about your journey thus far to become an artist.

Pierce Cruz (PC): Yes, my name is Pierce Cruz. I’m Chicago-born and-based artist. My art journey pretty much started as a kid. Aside from doodling in my notebooks at school, I pretty much spent a lot of my time in my room since it wasn’t quite safe for my mom’s liking (growing up on the far south side). I was pretty creative with making little movies with my toys on those hi-8 video cameras (making movie credits using word art on the windows 2000, making mini-CTA bus stop signs and train stations from VHS tapes, DVD cases, and markers for bus stop poles. I was mostly influenced by whatever media and toys I had at my disposal to make drawings too.

PI: What were some of the shows you watched that inspired you?

PC: My favorite shows growing up were Scooby Doo and Dragon Ball Z. My drawings essentially were inspired by those two shows, but there were sporadic influences from general anime, and a range of shows that came out in early 2000s Cartoon Network/adult swim,Nick, Disney Channel/Toon Disney, & PBS kids. I also had influences from watching different movies/shows on dvd, but was especially inspired by slasher flicks like “Halloween”, which I shouldn’t have been watching at a young age, but has since become my all-time go-to franchise of the genre.

PI: Were you formally trained as an artist? Did you go to school for art and receive a Bachelor’s or Masters in Fine Arts? 

PC: Yes, I went to Trinity Christian College. In terms of artistic practice, I was blessed with a fine arts instructor in my grade school who pushed for the arts to be brought into the school as best as he could. It was not so much in high school because it was agriculturally based, and we only had one year of art. So I couldn’t do much, except for my free time drawing my friends and stuff as inspiration ideas and whatnot. I went to Trinity as a Studio Art major and got my Bachelor’s in Drawing and Painting from there in 2018. That’s where the painting aspect of my drawings was developed, specifically with oil paints, but in the long run, I went to acrylics, so I have a bit of experience with both.

PI: Name three people who have influenced your artistic style the most.

PC: Oh, my artistic style? Hum, this is a good one. My style has shifted in the last couple of years. So, I don’t know if I can distinctly describe people. If anything, there are these realism aspects of comic book style that I probably got Superman or Batman: The Animated Series at the time. So, people could say the Bruce Timm cartoons had an impact in a way. I can say visual artists such as Van Gogh & varied murals across the city, such as Hebru Brantley made an impact/desire to want to work bigger and more colorful. Friends have pointed out that I have a very good eye for color, and i feel that it’s more of a tacit response than anything. And I can thank Akira Toriyama for me starting a drawing binge (that continued as I grew up) shortly after a hospital experience with pneumonia in 7th grade.

PI: How do you prepare when you are about to paint, draw, or get into a commissioned piece?

PC: So I guess that depends; I want to say, for the most part, everything is sort of in the moment unless there is something that gives me a response in terms of an image or a scene from a TV show or whatnot, may maybe want to mimic an action shot at one point. But it’s mostly a matter of the source image or my surroundings. And just going from there.

PI: How did you become involved with the Art Gallery Exhibit at the Center on Halsted? What are you doing to prepare for this event?

PC: This will be my first post-collegiate solo show. It is very exciting and a little nerve-racking because I had this vision board for the longest time and re-added some stuff to it this year. It happened based on the circumstances. A mutual artist reached out to me saying that they were looking for artists to put some work in a gallery exhibition. It came out of the blue, which I’m very grateful for.

I had to do some wire-hanging things quickly for a couple of pieces based on how the pieces are hung in the gallery. I’m organizing the titles of the works and pricing them. I’ve had merchandise that I’ve been selling on my website that has yet to sell since the pandemic, and I want to bring those with me.

PI: What can we expect to see in your work? 

PC: This show is an amalgamation of the pieces I’ve made between my senior exhibition at Trinity through the present/ongoing pandemic. I got an amazing art residency/opportunity at Art on Sedgwick which introduced me to 27 by 40-piece linen paper which allowed me to try out larger based drawings that feel like a giant sketchbook in comparison to my continued work on the smaller books that I kept a consistent streak of working on since August 2018 (going on four sketchbooks so far). I hope to bring some of the sketchbooks to the opening for folks to see and perhaps see the development of my process over time.

PI: I took a look at your work on social media. The first few words that came to mind were urban, lively, and colorful. 

PC: Yes, that’s another thing you can expect to see, colorful and lively things. It explodes in color. They are also youthful. It’s very important that we include some of those things in art. I want to say that the project you’re seeing, has continued to inspire me to keep on making large drawing sheets. All of the pieces in the show are self-portraits in their own right; the large drawings especially document a point in time and sketchbook influences but allow me to add paint into the mix if need be. It’s cool to have these as a reference to how I’ve explored different facets of my thoughts and identity and sort of just how it’s been shifting, or being discovered and rediscovered, or just even recorded because we’re always ever evolving and changing. And, of course, gaining new insights about ourselves and others and reflecting that out there.

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