Artist Spotlight: Breaking Down Barriers Through Art

Krista Connor

Krista Connor

, Community

Painters Monica Lopez and Danny Martinez share their culture and take initiative in Creative District programs

Sister and brother Monica Lopez and Danny Martinez, who are both painters and creatives, attended one of the inaugural Creative District projects in Wilmington three year ago, hoping to learn about murals. But the project, The Veterans Freedom Mural, turned out to be much more than a learning experience.

The siblings became integral to the project and team, and Creative District Strategist Laura Semmelroth praises their involvement.

“The mural could not have happened without their hard work,” she says. “They are also just lovely people and represent Delaware well.”

They painted almost every Creative District mural after that, and Lopez painted alongside the lead artist on two of them.

The Creative District—a place for creative entrepreneurs to work and live—is bounded by Fourth, Ninth, Market and Washington streets. The Veterans Mural is on an exterior wall at Marcella’s House, a 15-unit veterans’ residential facility on Washington Street. 

The duo became involved with the Creative District after Lopez participated in the Artaddiction program at the city’s Latin American Community Center. The program explores addiction and recovery through art, and both Lopez and Martinez have won awards for their pieces. When word spread that the Creative District was looking for muralists, the two stretched out of their comfort zones to attend the workshops.

The siblings were the only Hispanic participants, and Lopez was initially intimidated by the language barrier, relying on Martinez for translation help.

“But they opened their arms and received us,” says Lopez. “They always support us in everything that we do and say, ‘You’re very persistent.’”

Lopez, 34, and Martinez, 30, are originally from Puebla, Mexico, and have lived in the United States for 16 years.

“In my country, when I told people I want to be an artist, people laughed in my face,” says Lopez. When she arrived in the U.S., she stopped painting entirely; she didn’t know where to look for materials, and became depressed without understanding the city of Wilmington or the language.

“But when I started participating in Artaddiction, people started telling me where I can get supplies, sharing ideas and inviting me to other events,” says Lopez.

Now, the siblings participate in various programs, including workshops at NextFab. Solo projects are a primary focus right now, too.

For Lopez, one of the most important messages her art conveys is an appreciation for her roots.

“My art is all about my culture,” she says. “I like to paint things about the culture that people here might not know about. For them, it can seem weird, but for us, it’s being proud.”

Lopez and Martinez have also tried their hand at woodworking at NextFab. Photo courtesy of Monica Lopez

For example, she specializes in painting the catrina doll, an iconic skeleton with flowers on its head derived from Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebrated this year Oct. 31-Nov. 2.

The brother and sister say artistry doesn’t exactly run in the family. Rather, it’s a result of Lopez’s natural talent and her position as a role model for Martinez, who has followed in her footsteps since childhood trying to keep up, he says, laughing.

Martinez’s style is more abstract than Lopez’s. “I don’t show faces, it’s more retro,” he says. “It’s weird stuff.”

One of his recent pieces is “Balloons of Life,” an abstract commentary on drug addiction and alcohol abuse.

“Every balloon that I painted represented someone in my life under the influence,” he says. In the painting, a person reaches for a golden balloon that represents the final goal: being clean and re-entering society.

Martinez and Lopez will take part in a Creative District exhibition at The Rock Lot, 305 W. 8th St., on Friday, Oct. 5. Their paintings will be displayed and for sale, along with other artists’ work, from 5-7 p.m.

“We found out that the Creative District has really nice people—we have made new friends and family,” says Martinez. “They’re doing great things for Wilmington.”

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