In October 2022, student and artist, Litzy Cruz filled the walls of the Phyllis Gill Gallary with expressive multimedia pieces. For 13 days Cruz found a home for her artwork at the UCR Arts building. The exhibition titled “HELLBNDER” gave Cruz a newfound confirmation of her identity — an artist.

Litzy Cruz is a twenty-year-old artist from Hemet, California. Cruz is currently a third-year Art History undergraduate student at UC Riverside. While Cruz does not identify with any particular art style, it is safe to say her work stems from contemporary and grunge graphic design. While her expertise is in graphic art, the artist is currently exploring pastels and 3D modeling.

For Cruz, reaching her identity as an artist was a difficult journey. Defining artistry was clear for Cruz, yet identifying with the term never came to her naturally.

“I guess as of recently, I’ve kind of been defining myself as this artist in a way. Before I refused to use the term artist, just ‘cause I never felt like I fit into the general definition of what an artist is or people’s idea of what an artist is, so I just never used it. But that is kind of what I am proud of and what I would like to be recognized as. I am an artist,” Cruz told the Highlander.

“HELLBNDER” is what Cruz recognizes as her proudest work. Last fall, the exhibition showcased what Cruz had been crafting since she was a child. From illustrations of cartoon characters made at 10 years old to her experimental digital media pieces at 20. The show not only revealed her progression as an artist but the embodiment of inspiration for her pieces as well.

To most, identifying Hemet, California on a map is impossible. For Cruz, the city of Hemet is a special place. The artist lived there her entire life and does not find Hemet to be appealing to most, but her connection to the city is what makes it worth the introspection.

Cruz described to the Highlander her home life. “There’s not much to do there (Hemet, CA). It’s not the greatest place ever, but it’s home. My parents are immigrants from Mexico, so that’s definitely had a lot of influence on what I do and how that’s shaped me as an artist. I would say it does hold a lot of influence. And I think as of recently I’ve been trying to incorporate a lot of that stuff into my work. I think moving away from home has let me reflect on my time back at home and just kind of recognize it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was when I lived there.”

Her process also allows her inspiration to flourish in her work as well. When she finds the means to design or illustrate on Procreate, it begins with a Pinterest board. Setting a mood is what pushes Cruz to create. You will also find Cruz creating to the sound of music. It is a ritual to listen to musicians such as Beach House, Deftones, and other musicians during this creative process. Rock, nu-metal and shoegaze are a must-listen when creating.

“Honestly, just listening to this type of music, just brings up all these emotions that I would not necessarily talk about. It lets me acknowledge them, then use it as an outlet,” Cruz articulated.

While charm and style are what make Cruz’s work so mesmerizing, at its core emotion is the glue to each of her pieces.

When asked what message people should receive from her work, she responded, “I think, just kind of being comfortable with yourself as you are. A lot of the things I have been recently tapping into are these personal things. I think just because I’m now getting comfortable with sharing this part of myself that I wouldn’t share 2 or 4 years ago. I think showing people it’s okay to be vulnerable and it’s okay to have these moments where you are at your lowest. But being able to talk about it and share it if you’re willing that can lead to something very beautiful.”

In her recent work, Cruz explores themes of womanhood and her queer identity. Touching on what it means to be a woman is important to her. She makes it clear femininity is not cookie-cutter, which is an idea she used to struggle with. Being comfortable in your skin is a difficult task and is what Cruz hopes to continue to venture into within her personal life and her artwork.

“HELLBNDER,” the exhibition is just the beginning of her journey of showcase art. In the future, she hopes to design a graphic for a musical artist or band. She would also like to see her art in a museum as well.

To view Litzy Cruz’s digital archive, visit @hellbnder on Instagram.


  • Jaelyn Gonzalez

    Jaelyn Gonzalez is a former Arts & Entertainment Assistant Editor for the Highlander. Her love for alternative culture brought her to report on the independent arts and SoCal culture. When she is not writing she is DJ'ing!