Artists’ Work B.e.n.c.h. likes to support not only established artists with years of credentials, but up-and-comers who show great promise to become significant figures in the Inland Empire arts scene. One of those is David Carranza, Jr., of San Bernardino Community Church. Over the past few years David has begun to establish himself as a visual artist through competitions, commissions and hard work.
Above: featured artist David Carranza, Jr. (center), surrounded by schoolkids in Fiji
Born in Los Angeles in February 1990, David Carranza, Jr., is the second of five children born to Dave and Maise Carranza. His parents have been the youth pastors at San Bernardino Community Church (SBCC) for about five years and served in Colton prior to that post. David Jr. graduated from San Gorgonio High School in 2008 and is presently studying art at Cal State San Bernardino.
“Since I was a toddler, art has always fascinated me,” says Carranza, “probably starting with cartoons and comic books. I guess you can say I have always appreciated art and the artist.” His parents both came to the Lord out of gang culture, so David and his siblings came up in the knowledge of Jesus, which has inspired David his whole life. “I always thank God first for giving me the inspiration and the motivation to do what I do. I honestly can’t do anything without the guy upstairs – thank you, Jesus! – and God is the number one artist. Da best!”
Above: David Carranza's 1 Life, 1 Chance.
Besides his faith, Carranza’s family background has had a great impact on his art. “My father is Chicano and my mother is Polynesian/Samoan. I love my two cultures because art plays a big role in them both. Samoan and Mexican/Aztec history are full of art and creative talent. Mexican culture has dropped some traditions due to colonization a long time ago, but Polynesian/Samoan culture is still going strong today. Samoan tattoo designs and artwork are still being passed on, and it inspires me every time I see it.”
Above: one of Carranza’s designs based upon Samoan tattoo art.
Aside from visual art, one way in which Carranza expresses his heritage is through participation in SBCC’s youth dance team. Choreographed by his mother, Maise, the dance team blends elements of popular dance, hip-hop, Island culture and other streams to glorify God through bodily movement. Carranza has accompanied the team in their travels around Southern California, in missions outreach to Europe, Mexico, and as far as Fiji. Discovering those disparate cultures has also colored his perception of art and his mission.
“Honestly,” he continues, “I believe everything that I come in contact with affects the way I look at art, especially the people and places I surround myself with. The dance team, church, family, culture, being a PK (pastor’s kid): it all has an effect on me and my ideas on art, whether it be big or small. Portions of my life are revealed in my artwork… it’s like that saying, “if you want to know what’s in your heart, listen to your mouth.” It’s kind of the same thing for me with art. I switched it around: “if you want to know what’s in my heart, look at my art.”
“Oh, and being a PK is totally fun! I don’t know how it feels not to be a PK, so I can’t tell the difference. My parents keep me in check and I’m totally okay with it because I want to make it to heaven someday! They keep me in line, and my parents aren’t the average pastors. It affects my art in a great way.”
Above: influenced by tattoo art, this image by David Carranza, Jr., depicts Jesus standing out as a dynamic force in the midst of pagan symbols like the yin-yang and pentagram. The culture war plays a big role in Carranza’s art.
Carranza draws from so many sources of inspiration, it’s hard to pin his art down to a particular category. “I don’t know what I would describe my art as. God has given me this talent, so I might describe it as obedience. I’m using my talent for His glory, not mine. And I didn’t bury my talent like the guy in the parable… I’m being obedient and using the gifts God has given me. I believe… we should use our talents and gifts to honor His name, and to reach the people that don’t know Him personally.”
His preferred mediums so far are acrylics and oil paints. “I’m still learning to use other media so I don’t really have a favorite right now, but I prefer painting. I don’t have a specific artist I like... I have a few, like Rembrandt, Chuck Close, Frida Kahlo, God... I don’t really know. I would have to say God gives me the talent and the desire to make art, therefore God and His creation give me inspiration!”
Above: Carranza's award-winning painting, Sacrifice.
For a young man of nineteen, Carranza’s talents have already paid off in many ways. “I have won scholarships to any Assemblies of God college, but I didn’t accept any because none of the colleges or universities had an art major. I won the scholarships through AG’s National Fine Arts competition. My painting (“Sacrifice”) placed in the top five out of about two hundred artists, and I was super excited when I found out the results! It took place in Summer 2007 in Indianapolis, Indiana. I also won “best of show” at the San Bernardino School District’s annual art show, showcased in the Inland Center Mall. I won one hundred bucks with the same painting I used in the AG Fine Arts competition. I also received a scholarship of $500 from Bank of America for my accomplishments in visual art in high school, and there are many other awards, certificates and honorable mentions that I received for just making art in school.”
Above: Carranza’s image of San Gorgonio High School’s mascot, the Spartan. This was donated to the school library. Carranza worked the school’s name and initials into the tilework on the piece several times.
“I consider any piece of art I complete to be an achievement, such as the mural I painted at the Choices Pregnancy Center in downtown San Bernardino. I did it free of charge and it was for a good cause. The mural speaks against abortion. I really believe God wanted me to do it. It really stretched my abilities because it was challenging. I learned how to treat the paint if I wanted the mural to come out a certain way.”
Above: the mural painted by David Carranza, Jr., at Choices Pregnancy Center.
Artistic growth is as important to Carranza as spiritual growth, and the two are closely intertwined in his life. “Every art piece I do strengthens and grows my artistic abilities. I always try to pray before I do an art piece. I pray for strength and God’s help…. I want my artwork to glorify God. I want my artwork to “glow”; I want people to see a light in it, even if there isn’t a cross in it.” He encourages other artists to keep a similar pace. “Practice, practice, and pray and ask God if being an artist is what He wants you to do. And if the answer is yes, practice drawing, painting, sculpting, and whatever you do, do it unto God. Make art your lifestyle but keep God first, and stay humble… No matter what people tell you or what awards you win, stay humble because “God giveth and God taketh away.”
Above: Carranza has recently been experimenting with digital art, as seen in this color-manipulated photo of the SBCC dance team and the abstracted eye.