Pop Art by Devin Vazquez restores old treasures for modern use

Devin Vazquez shows off his retro pop art that includes reinvented luggage and purses. (Courtesy of Devin Vasquez)

light spotDevin Vazquez turns what some consider trash into refurbished treasures.

The Albuquerque artist reinvents objects that owners have deemed useless, such as worn-out luggage and broken radios, into accessories with a vintage flair. Her pop art style is unique and vibrant, bringing a sense of joy to people who visit her booth at vendor fairs.

“It’s very colorful and eye-catching. … It attracts everyone, which I think is great,” Vazquez said.

Part of that appeal is the way Vasquez blends classic and modern eras. Although she’s only 28, she possesses a range of craft skills, and this is partly due to the fact that she’s been creating since her early teenage years – the same time she started her first business. Vasquez was making handmade jewelry at 12, but her art has since evolved into striping, car painting, and now recycled artwork.

Devin Vazquez shows off one of his radio bags. (Courtesy of Devin Vasquez)

She says her most popular items are the suitcases and bags she creates. Vazquez will visit garage and estate sales, thrift stores and antique shops, and will even spot something on top of a fence or that has been tossed on the side of a dumpster to acquire certain items that catch her eye.

Vasquez explained that the first step in the process is to check the property’s value online. It’s the collector in her, and after bringing home a $15 piece of furniture from a garage sale, she almost learned the hard way about the importance of research.

She said of the furniture: “I took it home and hardly looked at it to see if it was worth anything. It was a piece made by Paul McCobb in the 1950s or 1960s and it cost a lot of money.

Vasquez’s most creative process may be how she repurposes old Bakelite radios. As with all her items, she makes any necessary repairs, then guts and cleans the interior of the radio before finishing the exterior with her bright pop art.

The artist has always found appeal in the vintage look of the 1950s or 1960s, saying “everything is so beautiful” from that classic era.

“The architecture, the clothing, the cars, everything had its own style and I really love it,” she said. “I think it’s a style that really never goes out of style.”

Her admiration for this time period is due in part to the influence her father had on her as an airbrush artist. Not only did his eventual work on cars inspire Vasquez’s style, he also taught her how to run the industry.

Fortunately, both of Vasquez’s parents are creative business owners. Her mother is a nail technician and business owner, so Vasquez is blessed with the best of the creative and business worlds.

“They’ve always been super supportive,” Vasquez said of his parents. “It’s just great that they’re both there to share ideas because they have the mindset of that artist, too.”

Vasquez has found similar camaraderie in the local art community, saying she’s grateful for the network that welcomed her and the connections she made.

Devin Vasquez uses a vintage pop art style in his work. (Courtesy of Devin Vasquez)

She says she hopes to open a small studio and then eventually expand to a low-voltage retail store — more of a hangout place where artists can come connect and showcase their talents.

“I feel like no matter where you go, as long as you have something you’re doing that works, people will be drawn to it. I feel my work is very accessible.”

Vasquez displays and sells her art mostly at dealer fairs, but also commissions patrons interested in her style. Her work will next be exhibited in The Women’s Art Show on October 2 in the Pete V. Domenici Education Building located at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

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