Devin Vasquez’s pop art restores ancient treasures for modern use

Devin Vasquez showcases vintage pop art of reinvented luggage and wallets. (Courtesy of Devin Vasquez)

bright spotDevin Vasquez turns what some see as junk into reclaimed treasures.

The Albuquerque artist reinvents objects that their owners consider useless, such as worn suitcases and broken radios, into accessories with a vintage twist. The pop art style is unique and lively, bringing a sense of joy to people who visit its booth at vendor fairs.

“Very colorful and eye-catching. … It appeals to everyone, I think it’s great,” said Vasquez.

Part of that appeal is the way Vasquez blends the classical and modern eras. Although he is only 28 years old, he has a craftsmanship, partly because he has been creating since his early teens – but also since he started his first job. Vasquez made handmade jewelry at the age of 12, but later his art turned to line drawing, car painting, and now recycled artwork.

Devin Vasquez shows one of his radio wallets. (Courtesy of Devin Vasquez)

He says his most popular items are suitcases and wallets that he created himself. Vasquez will often see garage and estate sales, thrift and antique shops, and even something thrown over a fence or over the edge of a trash can to pick up certain items that catch his attention.

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

He said of the furniture: “I brought it home and I hardly looked at it and I didn’t see if it had any value. It was a piece made by Paul McCobb in the ’50s or ’60s and was worth a lot of money.”

Vasquez’s most creative process may be how he reuses old Bakelite radios. As with all his stuff, he makes all the necessary repairs and then cleans and cleans the inside of the radio before finishing the outside with live pop art.

The artist has always found appealing in the vintage look of the ’50s or 60s, saying “everything is so beautiful” from that classical period.

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

His fascination with that era stems in part from the influence his father gave him as an airbrush artist. His eventual work on cars not only inspired Vasquez’s style, but also taught him to run the industry.

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

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

Vasquez found a similar friendship in the local art community and said he was grateful for the network and connections that greeted him.

Devin Vasquez uses an old pop art style in his work. (Courtesy of Devin Vasquez)

He says he hopes to open a small studio and eventually a low-pressure retail store – more of a space for artists to come and showcase their talents.

“Wherever you go, as long as it’s something you do, I feel like people will be drawn to it. I feel my job is very accessible.”

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

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