Hispanic Heritage Month: Art that captures historical perspectives

Artist Cruz Ortíz aims to help create accurate images of Hispanic and Latino leaders, community

SAN ANTONIO – Cruz Ortíz has been creating art in San Antonio since the early ’90s. The artist has left his mark on many of the murals seen on the West Side through his participation with San Anto Cultural Arts; an arts organization he helped found. His style has evolved, but his mission to capture historical perspectives through art remains.

“I remember starting off thinking, man, I really want to have a show at the Bluestar (Arts Complex),” Ortíz said. “Things just kind of unfolded, and now I really look at it as that, I’m part of a network of a lot of artists producing work on many different levels.”

His art has been showcased at solo exhibitions including Artpace in San Antonio and Houston and the University of Texas at Austin’s Contemporary Art Museum as well as at international institutions such as the Lourvre in Paris, France.

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His pallets of color, the facial features carefully painted on the canvases and the Tex-Mex language incorporated into some of the paintings and portraits, all work together to capture the essence of Hispanic American and Latino leaders.

“Especially with, like, the Castro (brothers) or, you know, Dr. Ellen (Riojas) Clark (from UTSA), (or) Willie Velásquez, there’s definitely those historical perspectives (I want to capture),” Ortíz said. “I think those people need to be recognized, and that (group of work) becomes a theme.”

Ortíz also creates to help companies and nonprofits accurately portray and reach the Hispanic and Latinx community through his graphic design agency, Burnt Nopal. The agency was founded in 2019 and is run by CEO Olivia Flores Ortíz, wife of Cruz.

“My reality is there’s a lot of brown people. It’s Texas, you know, and Texas is a large community of Latinos,” Cruz said. “ I think about how a design is going to not only reflect in a prideful way, but also engage the community in a different manner. Creativity and curiosity are those big educational components that, you know, I think are going to lead people to the work.”

Components he is also using to inspire political activism in underrepresented communities.

“We’re also getting ready for the 2020 elections, which we’re really excited about (helping) get the vote out,” Ortíz said. “We also have another art project, the Burro Brigade, which is a voter participation brigade where a volunteer army picks up people (and takes them to the polls.”

To volunteer for the Burro Brigade, click here.

Ortíz along with his family will soon relocate to Houston with a goal to preserve and celebrate, at an even larger scale, Latinx and Hispanics making a difference in their communities.

For more information on the artist’s work, click here.

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