At Dr. Martens, Pride is an opportunity to celebrate everything we stand for – diversity, empowerment and rebellious self-expression. Across America, we continue our tradition of supporting and honoring the LGBTQ+ community with our 2019 Pride boot (learn more about the boot and our support of The Trevor Project here).
This year, at Dr. Martens Americas HQ, we asked local artist Heldáy de la Cruz, to create a mural for our Portland store window. Heldáy is an illustrator and graphic designer with a knack for hand-drawn typography. His art often reflects his activism – the Mexico-born artist is outspoken about his experience as a queer immigrant. In addition to his design work, Heldáy co-leads Power to the Dreamers, a collective that showcases the lives of immigrants through art. With his unique perspective in mind and our store windows as a canvas, Heldáy created a mural of what Pride means to him.
My name is Heldáy Benjamin de la Cruz and I was born in Jalisco, México. I work as an Illustrator and Graphic Designer in Portland, Oregon.
Tell us about your artwork in general.
For the most part, my work tends to lean in the area of illustration. However, my career has been in Graphic Design. So this allows me to create original work that starts with graphite and paper and sometimes evolves into digital. I’ve dabbled in painting, photography, and sculpture, but I always come back to illustration.
What are recurring or important themes in your work lately?
A lot of my work is focused on the undocumented, queer, and brown experience. These intersectionalities are at the core of my identity and at the core of my art.
Tell us about the mural you created and the inspiration behind it.
The mural I created contains the phrase “You are always becoming,” and that comes from the idea that the search for identity, for self-love, for balance, is always in motion. I came out when I was eighteen, and remember thinking then that I could just use the label “gay” freely, and that was that. It turned out to be much more complicated and layered than that, which is why I identify strongly with the term “queer” instead. It feels less defined, as I continue to grow and know myself.
What are some of the challenges when creating artwork of this size?
It is incredibly overwhelming, especially when you are used to digital or a notepad. Scaling up challenges your math skills, your perspective, and your ability to problem solve. Not to mention the physical aspect of it all. I painted for eighteen hours total, walking up and down a ladder, in the sun. That was the biggest challenge.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
Pride Month has changed for me. It used to scare me a lot because it was such a vulnerable feeling. I don’t feel that way anymore, and I think that’s what the “becoming” is all about. Pride Month is great in that it provides visibility to our community; it’s an opportunity for folks to learn about our history and our leaders who made it so that we can be out and proud. My only reservation is that the love and exposure that is shown to our community tends to stop when the month ends. There is a real opportunity here for us to celebrate the LGBTQIA community not just in the month of June, but every month. Not just celebrate either – but to go beyond making a statement as a company, organization, or individual. Really ask yourself what you’re doing for our community, walk the walk if you will. To me this looks like supporting queer artists, hiring queer folks, putting us in leadership roles, giving us resources, and really collaborating and building bridges.
Tell us about your first pair of Docs.
You know, I’ve actually never owned a pair of Docs until now. As someone who grew up poor in rural Oregon, my priorities were always in other places, like food, making rent, bills, etc. I have a brown pair that I love because they remind me of rugged rural Oregon, except, more fashionable. They are solid and give me confidence when I hear the thud as I walk around. It sort of demands attention, in a way. Letting you know I’m here, I’ve arrived.
What is your favorite thing about living in Portland?
There are many things I enjoy about living in Portland, especially the people. I have a vast community here that always shows up and supports one another. As far as activities, I love walking around Forest Park and challenging myself to identify trees, kicking back with friends at the Skidmore Bluffs to watch the sunset, heading over to Swift Watch, and of course all the beer, bookstores, and coffee you could want.
Follow Heldáy on Instagram at @el.dye