Artist, Jerry De La Cruz, corrected me on the phone. He has been creating art with ‘found’ objects for years. There’s nothing new about the upcycled, repurposed art seen in festivals and galleries around Denver lately. It is not a newly recognized phenomena in art, he let me know. What De La Cruz is creating can be defined as ‘reliquaries‘. Definition: a shrine or container for sacred relics.
In his studio is a bizarre mix of antique lamps which he grinningly unshackles to reassemble into a new work of art. There are hundreds of shelves of objects from garage sales, dumpsters, vintage stores and Goodwills. Your eyes move from knick-knacks, lamps, toys, vases, wire bowls, balls, dolls, religious icons creating a sort of fearful, intrusive, creepy peek into a stranger’s eccentric back room of an old curiosity shop.
He’s a contemporary, multi-disciplined artist who explained, “The reliquaries are just one of my current explorations and do not define my work per se.”
Amidst his fascinating studio with glass eyes and strings and objects staring at me, Jerry and I sat on the old band stand in his one hundred year old studio/home just west of the Santa Fe Art District while I interviewed him for the first Denver Art Project.
1. What inspires you these days?
I’m always inspired by high craftsmanship in all areas of creativity. As an example, the craftsmanship found in churches. It was the art churches paid for like sculpture, altars, windows. Human beings made this art. When I visit churches in Europe it’s like an archeological discovery of things created by humans.
2. Who are your heroes?
Kill your heroes, that’s what I say. Really. As you age, your heroes don’t last long. If I had to pick I’d say Toulous Lautrec, Salvador Dali, Diane Arbus, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, and Gerhardt Richter. These are artists who have fluctuated a lot and traveled in different directions with their work, especially Richter. Like myself, they’re all over the place.
3. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
It doesn’t exist. O.K., happiness to me is living in a world where two or three things work: health, enjoying what you’re doing, and no pitfalls, like, nothing gets in the way. You may not have a plan every day but you get started, get through it, go to bed, start over the next day. It’s how one travels through life, quality over quantity.
4. What scares the hell out of you?
As a child I did experience scares of that magnitude especially with horror movies or nightmares but as an adult, nothing really. Even after I was drafted into the army in 1968, I was not overwhelmed with fear that I might end up in a war zone. I have fears as most humans do but I would not say that any one of them scares the hell out of me. I would imagine that this question would likely bring up the issue of death or dying but they do not hold that much power over me though I must admit that I found a certain amount of comfort in a quote by Woody Allen, “ I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”.
5. What makes you laugh hard?
Things that aren’t necessarily meant to be funny, like humor found in conversations with friends, puns within the conversation as an example, and not so much that coming from comedy routines or professional comedians.
6. Who are your favorite artists of all time?
Edouard Manet is one of my favorites. I saw one of his paintings at the Musee d’Orsay and it stopped me in my tracks. The execution left me in awe.
7. What is your guiltiest pleasure?
8. If you could change one thing about you, it would be?
I’d obtain more literary experiences, read more classics and biographies.
9. What’s your favorite thing in the world?
Like if the house was burning? Besides Diane it would be my painting titled, “Then I found myself…in the bushes searching for that hunk of lead.” That is my story on canvas. One panel depicts me at 23 years old, the other at ten years old.
10. What comes to mind when you think of Denver?
My visual image of Denver is a very attractive, clean atmosphere with a lot of interesting elements. It’s a city but a city that still has great neighborhoods.
Since you’re about to make Miami your winter home, what comes to mind when you think of Miami?
It is culturally diverse and the magnitude of its diversity comes to mind.
Visit Jerry De La Cruz website: www.delacruzarts.com