Cerissa Lopez’s Art Collective Reimagines Las Vegas Spaces

The art group collaborates to transcend bland structures into vivid murals applying bold color palettes and painting creative designs

When Cerissa Lopez is in artist mode, translating her ideas onto an empty canvas, she blacks out. She has little to no memory of how she painted it when it’s finished. But she credits the creative consciousness and her talented team as significant sources of inspiration for her free flowing style.

Lopez, a freelance artist, designs murals around town with her mother and boyfriend. She belongs to a family of artists, meaning her affinity for art is in her blood.

Her late father, Ernesto Lopez, was a graphic designer; her mother, Doris Martinez, is a painter and her grandmother was a pianist. Following in their footsteps, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and has studied art for over a decade. But when she became a corporate artist, it left her wanting more, hindering her creative freedom.

“For the longest time, while working as a corporate artist, I felt like I was not whole. There was a part of me that just wasn’t complete as far as doing creative work,” says Lopez. “I was always subject to doing template based projects and it was always very repetitious.”

Lopez, who is a traditional painter at heart, was furloughed during the pandemic. This motivated her to resign from her corporate job in order to pursue art on her own terms. In fact, it has broken the monotony that inhibited her from developing her own style.

Courtesy of Cerissa Lopez

“I get to come home at night covered in paint and dirt, but I love it. As opposed to sitting at a desk for eight to 12 hours a day and doing the same thing over and over again,” she says. “It’s almost cathartic for me to be doing this now.”

The murals she paints with her family transcend a bland space the way an uplifting anthem enlivens a dull dance floor; it sings in every color, on every line and beyond every surface it inhabits. Her imagination is a driving force that shapes her world.

“I go about everything, in all my problems solving issues in a creative manner. I’ve always liked to have an open mind about things. I’ve always dressed differently. I’ve always looked differently. I’ve always been attracted to film and music that’s been a little step outside of the box. So, the fact that I get to do [art] as a profession, I feel like that just gives me character. It makes me feel complete.”

Courtesy of Cerissa Lopez

As a Las Vegas native, Lopez’s hometown roots are reflected in her work as well as her biracial heritage. Her mother was born in Germany and her father was born in the Philippines. It is a kind of self-expression, like all art, that touches on all qualities of its creator, including a sense of identity and a sense of place.

My thing that I always refer to and that I love about myself is that I’m biracial. I’ve always had the best of both worlds as far as design inspiration,” she says. “And I’ve always been in awe of the neon lights, the typography and all the signage in Vegas. As far as my color palette is concerned, Vegas is a very loud place, so that shows in my work.”

Now she designs striking, large-scale murals with her mother, Doris, and her boyfriend, Krie. The art group’s love of retro and obscure media not only brings them closer, but also plays an integral role in their creative process. While working, they often listen to music or play movies. They are constantly exchanging film and music recommendations to spark inspiration.

The murals they produce are more than a representation of their skills, they are an extension of their unique identities and obscure obsessions, a story told through thoughtfully crafted murals to embody their client’s vision.

Krie, her boyfriend, has greatly impacted her artistic growth, she says. He has about 15 years of experience using aerosol paint, so she credits him for “showing her the ropes” of what has become their primary medium.

“I’ll be thinking of a concept and I [will] start to talk about something, then either my mom or my boyfriend will complete the sentence with their concept and it’ll be exactly what I was envisioning. That’s how it’s been since we’ve worked together and it’s been so fluid and so beautiful to be a part of that process.”

Together, the ingenious trio beautifies spaces across the valley and takes part in community art events by combining their three artistic talents, which include classical painting, graphic design and street art. Her art collective’s portfolio influences span a wide range of interests, including cyber punk, nature, classical art and surrealism, which renders into visceral pieces exuding a Vegas flair. Endless waves of creativity stream between them.

She shares which artworks she is the most proud of so far. First, she mentions the psychedelic skeleton mural she created with Krie for the Life Is Beautiful festival. Second, she references the gothic floral wall she painted with him inside the Italian-American restaurant, Rosa Ristorante.

“Those two pieces are what we’re the most proud of because it was hard for us to find our footing as far as our own creative style. With those two pieces, we came up with the references and everything on our own. Those were the most organic pieces of work that we’ve done so far.”

Speaking from experience, Lopez expresses the benefits and drawbacks that come with working for a corporation versus working for herself.

After working in a corporate environment, her advice is: “Never give 100% of your artistic ability to a company that’s not going to appreciate it. Always invest in your own brand because that’s what is going to remain in the history books, not doing all that work for someone else’s brand or someone else’s company.”

As a freelance artist, she imparts her personal goals and fears: “My goal as an artist is to paint new subject matter all the time. So it’s definitely scary taking on something completely different than I’ve ever painted before. It’s absolutely terrifying. And I’m very competitive in nature. I fear failure a lot of the time. I’m in constant battle with myself, but I’m also my biggest hype man.”

Lopez recognizes how fortunate she is to have a supportive family because she’s known artists who did not. She also appreciates her hometown’s expanding artistic opportunities. As her artistry progresses, she contemplates on what it means to be an artist today compared to previous generations.

Courtesy of Cerissa Lopez

“I get that our parents’ generation don’t really understand my generations’ work ethic, especially when it comes to being a freelance artist. They come from that blue collar world where unless you clock in and clock out at a 9 to 5 job, it’s not considered ‘real work’ in their eyes,” she says.

“I’m super glad to be my age now, in this country and in this city, doing what I’m doing now,” she adds. “It’s so easy to just do what you love in this country. I think that’s so rad and we overlook that a lot.”

To learn more about their art, visit Cerissa Lopez Design.

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