Psychedelic Excursions: A Q & A with Burt Vera Cruz

Meditation, cymatics, pondering the fabric of reality, and straight up escaping the matrix with artist Burt Vera Cruz.

When did you start making art? What drew you to it?

Growing up in the 80s and 90s in Compton, I was surrounded by the four elements of Hip Hop culture and I was particularly attracted to graffiti art. Back then we didn’t have the internet so the only places you could see pieces were in real life or in rare books like Subway Art. Since my parents were delivery drivers, I got to see a fair share of LA’s canvasses – freeways, riverbeds, canals, abandoned buildings, etc.  The combination of form, color, dimension, and flow drew me deep into it. Bright, colorful 3D letters would pop out along the 5 and 110 freeway. Seeing the scale and craftsmanship from some of LA’s premiere graffiti art crews blew my mind. It was an art that felt accessible to every kid. I started collecting all kinds of markers and sketchbooks just to take a stab at my own pieces. For me, it ignited a love that would transform into graphic design, then psychedelic art many years later.

Did you start making psychedelic art then? If not, what began that process?

My excursions into psychedelics (which started in college) and my graphic design work were two separate aspects of my life until 2010. By this time, I was already into meditation, cymatics, pondering the fabric of reality, and straight up escaping the matrix. So in the context of this spiritual bloom, I started doodling mandalas on Adobe Illustrator – super complex forms that would take me days to finish. Then around 2014, I knew I needed to learn motion design and video editing if I wanted to grow in my field. That’s when I stumbled upon a Skillshare class by Rich Armstrong where I learned to create mesmerizing gifs using After Effects. His gifs reminded me of the visuals I would see on shrooms even though that’s not what he intended. That’s when I realized that I wanted to see my Illustrator mandalas in motion – to capture the ever changing, fractal, blooming, and cyclical nature of reality. I’ve been creating and learning ever since.

How do you decide what you’re going to make?

Some of my best pieces are made while driving and listening to music. The energy and vibe of a song will conjure a feeling, a memory from a high dose trip, or it might inspire a new concept or new way of looking at an older piece. Sometimes, I see music and I want to capture the feeling and image in my mind. On other days, I am simply inspired to build on past work, to explore the infinite variations of an idea, or to refine the technical execution of some work.

What is your art process from start to finish?

Chaos, pure chaos. LOL

Between work, meetings, making lunch and dinner, binge watching a show on Netflix, playing golf, watching YouTube tutorials, I somehow find time to produce art. Everything begins in my head from some spark of inspiration. I transfer that idea to my sketchbook where I might explore shapes, layouts, or techniques. Then sporadically I spend hours between After Effects and Blender working on something, trying to get the timing, colors, shapes, and composition right. If by some miracle I produce something that gets me excited and worthy of my signature, I’ll render the final edit. From there, I move on to music – a vital component of my work. On certain occasions I will produce my own soundscape using Garageband, otherwise I listen to some of my favorite musicians while looking at the final visual. At that point, it is all about feeling. Does the song and visual feel cohesive? Do the vibes match? If so, I make my final edit in Premiere Pro where I export a shiny, new optimized video file ready to pop up on your feed.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?

Laying in my grave.

Living a lie.

Denying my truth.

Dying inside.

Who or what inspires you to generate these art pieces?

Ultimately, I see myself as a cartographer of the psychedelic realm, dropping visual waypoints to help others find home. Entheogens are our birthright, they’ve been with humans for thousands of years, and they are the key to humanity’s full awakening to our divine state as sovereign, cosmic beings circumnavigating a galaxy. I want to connect to an ever-growing community of people who know and understand this, as well as inspire others to explore consciousness. We are at a crossroads. We can either dig deeper into the archaic models of militarized social control that keeps us in the dark age, or we can explore the possibilities that arise from creativity, freedom, peace, love and respect. I hope my work ushers the latter reality.

If you have a favorite color, what is it and why?

Right now, my favorite color combination is pink, purple, deep cyan, and blue which are analogous colors on the spectrum. To me they feel fresh, erotic, delicious, sweet like candy, deep and mysterious, feminine and masculine, and magical.

What is the most important component to your art?

I wouldn’t say that any one component is more important than others. The integrity of my art depends on the combination of color, form, rhythm, lighting, sound, pattern, texture, and movement. Beyond those elements, the most important ingredient is curiosity. All art comes with infinite variations. With the power of our imagination we can explore distant galaxies, create worlds, paint entire cities. With every stroke of the brush, with every pixel pushed, the question I ask myself is, “what if?” and that question alone opens doors to so many possibilities to explore. My challenge as an artist is to stay curious and share what I find.

Final words?

I’d like to thank the staff at Meow Wolf for providing me an opportunity to share a bit of myself. It’s support like this from the community that keeps me fired up to stay on this art journey. There was a time when artists like myself were largely unseen and unknown. Organizations, venues, like Meow Wolf, are providing a platform to showcase talent from around the globe and bringing the world together every day. It’s an honor to be a part of this and I am absolutely grateful to be alive and thriving in this era.