Art your way back: Kim Cruz’s journey from MYX VJ to visual artist
Most people, including me, recognize Kim Cruz as a social media influencer or a 2017 MYX VJ. Some would even know her as a former ESPN Philippines host. With all these experiences under her belt, you would think that we’d see more of her on TV, pursuing a career in media or the entertainment industry. Well, she thought so, too.
Along with everybody else, Kim had the time to take a break and reassess her life. She recalls: “I’d say the pandemic definitely made me think. I went back home to my family because I lived on my own. When you’re alone, you just think a lot. Then, it was like my dreams were brought back.”
For the past year, Kim has pursued her artistic dreams by painting, taking an art internship, being mentored by Philippine National Artist BenCab, and launching two sold-out exhibits. And it all started by being at home, spending time with her family, and enjoying some time by herself.
Growing up Cruz
Chatting with Kim, I observed how her childhood greatly influenced her work. Her parents are art collectors, so, being surrounded by art, I guess it’s inevitable to want to pursue a career in the field.
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Kim shares, “I think that growing up in a creative environment definitely helped me to be more confident in pursuing a career in arts. My parents always had my back, so that brought out a lot of my confidence and inspired me to also do well in my career.”
Her brother, Kyle Cruz, is also a creative. A fashion designer in his own right, Kyle leads his own streetwear brand called CRUZ. “He puts a lot of input into my art, and I helped him with his brand, so it’s a nice dynamic to have around,” she says.
Where student meets master
Kim’s ultimate career goal is to take up art business and be a museum curator. “I always go to museums, and most of the time I go alone. I love being in a place like that where people are inspired.” So, as a first step, she applied for an art internship at the Secret Fresh Gallery.
NYMPHEAS’ will show how confident I am now, how happy I am to be with just by myself, and how happy I am to be a woman alone.
Spending time at Secret Fresh allowed her to be surrounded by amazing local contemporary art. With this experience, she added another goal to her dream list: to make Filipino art stand out more abroad. Kim shares, “A lot of Filipino artists are talented, but they don’t know how to put their art out there. That’s something that I want to help work on.”
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During her internship, she met BenCab (yes, the BenCab), who took her under his wing as an apprentice. According to Kim, “It’s super intimidating whenever he’s around. I get so scared because I get so shy to show him my work.”
Despite the intimidation of being mentored by a National Artist, she absorbed everything he taught her. “I learned so much about not only being an artist but also being a human,” she says, adding, “You need to learn how to be humble and how to have purpose and passion. You don’t put out art because you want to be famous or you want money. It’s about sharing yourself with the rest of the world.”
As a sports lover, she can’t help but compare art with sports. “Athletes are artists themselves. BenCab taught me to keep training, keep working on myself, and keep my head down. It’s important to keep humility through and through.”
The future is female
Under BenCab’s wing, Kim was able to find her own distinct style as an artist. She decided that her work would be focused on the female form and figure. In June 2021, Kim launched her first exhibit entitled “Figure Study.” She completed 14 charcoal pieces; all sold out on the first day.
Now, she just recently launched her second exhibit, “NYMPHEAS.” Still celebrating the essence of the woman, Kim takes on a new art style that’s heavily Monet-inspired. In “NYMPHEAS,” Kim applied everything she’d learned in the past year.
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“NYMPHEAS” has a lot more meaning, she says, because “it’s so personal.” She used to have people around her when she sketched, but now Kim realizes she does her best work alone. “’NYMPHEAS’ will show how confident I am now, how happy I am to be with just by myself, and how happy I am to be a woman alone.”
Seeing her new work, you can observe that many figures are alone or have repeated images. “It’s either one figure or one in three different motions. That’s how I feel; in me, there’s duality. I feel like three different people at a time.”
She adds, “It’s the beauty of it. I can be boyish, but I can be feminine as well. That’s how I feel about women. There are strong women, but women can also be delicate. I put so much meaning into this exhibit that I would love to hear different interpretations of it.”
Kim was surrounded by a lot of figurative art, growing up. She never saw these figures as erotic or sexual, as some might under the so-called “male gaze.” “As much as possible, I try to make these women look soft and confident. I want women to feel beautiful whenever they see my art because I want them to know that they’re appreciated.”
She tries to incorporate many different female body types in her pieces and stays away from “Coke bottle-type” female forms. “I would hate women to feel insecure through my work. I would love women to go inside my exhibit and say, ‘That’s me,’ ‘That’s how I feel about myself,’ or ‘I feel more confident.’”
Kim’s journey is far from over, as we’ve only witnessed its first few chapters. For her part, she wants women to be the heroines of their own stories. And not just any woman, but real and complex women, with both rough and soft sides. As a young female artist, she makes sure that the power she feels while creating is carried through the women she paints and eventually felt by the women who see them.