Danielle DeJesus is a 29-year-old Puerto Rican photographer and painter who's changing the way we see, and value, money with her art.
The Bushwick resident knew she was an artist at the age mosts artists do: when she was just a little girl. "I would draw Puerto Rican flags with the wrong amount of stripes because I was too little to know better. I’d also draw pages and pages of what I imagined Chupacabras looked like too, back in the '90s," she told Vivala.
But her creative spirit was quickly shut down after she was rejected from every art-based high school in New York. Trying to rebuild her confidence after "not feeling good enough" wasn't easy, but five years ago DeJesus decided to give drawing and painting another try. Now she's been consistently creating for over a year — and her work is incredible; and that's an understatement.
She began her painted money series after she heard about Lin-Manuel Miranda and "Hamilton."
DeJesus admits that her knowledge about the "Hamilton" play, and theater in general, was non-existent until she saw the cast perform at the 2016 Grammys. She said, "Like every Boricua, I am extremely proud of my culture and people, so when I saw the cast of Hamilton on the Grammys and Anthony Ramos held up our flag, I was mesmerized."
Seeing her flag inspired her to draw "Boricua Hamilton" on the $10 bill, and thus her collection took off.
Money became the perfect medium for her to make powerful statements — oftentimes politically driven — on subjects that matter to her.
She uses acrylic paints for her pieces that take anywhere from eight to 12 hours to create, and has made it a point to make sure her imagery "overpowers the value of the money itself." DeJesus also addressed how money is held in such high regard, making it the perfect material to use when making a political message.
Her most pressing work has tackled issues like Black Lives Matter and police brutality, racism, homophobia, and misogyny.
The piece above features Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Alton Sterling — Black men who were murdered at the hands of police.
Her Laverne Cox portrait was an ode to the LGBTQ advocate and the community during pride month.
She also shared a message about the hateful backlash Leslie Jones received for being in the "Ghostbusters" remake — simply because she was a woman, and a Black woman at that.
Although she uses her work to shed light on current happenings throughout the country, her focus remains on the Latino community.
After all, her "Hamilton" hit was motivated by her love for her culture.
"My heart lies with telling our story as Latinos. Our political heroes, our people and our issues with identity, battles with gentrification, everything we go through and experience in our daily lives," she said.
"Being Latina is the greatest blessing in my life"
While the artist explained that she's trying to communicate her Latino pride through her paintings, she also wants to share the struggles that everyone goes through — "not just as Latinos, but as a human
As much as DeJesus knows how to get deep with her breadth of work, she also covers pop culture and cartoons so that there's something for everyone to enjoy.
"Whether you’re a little toddler or a viejita, from any race and background," DeJesus' work will speak to you.
The Boricua artist does sell her work, but mostly through
galleries and some private clients.
And as a woman, DeJesus would love to see see more ladies creating and getting their work out there, especially in street art.
As a Latina artist, DeJesus is doing the damn thing.
While her money set is small in nature, it packs a punch like her other larger-scale paintings and murals.
Being turned down from every single New York City high school for the arts didn't turn out too bad for DeJesus, and she wants to remind aspiring Latinx artists that they should keep doing what they love and continue to push boundaries even when people tell you that you can't or shouldn't.
"Don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re not good enough, because you are the best. If you love something enough, nothing can get the way of you manifesting great things in your life and bringing you opportunities you’ve only dreamed of. Persist, bang on every door, and follow your heart always."