Colombia-born, Brooklyn-based artist Diana ‘Didi’ Rojas wants us to think more critically about why we buy what we buy: “Do we make purchases because we truly connect with an $800 pair of sneakers or is it solely for others to see?”
The artist creates ceramic sculptures and realistic 2D paintings of hyped sneakers and viral fashion trends to interrogate the social value we place on outer appearance – in fact, you may recognise Rojas’s recreations of the Balenciaga crocs or Jacquemus Le Chiquito. Her tongue in cheek designs are pop art for the 21st-century hypebeast. “My work aims to push boundaries of what objects mean to us and question why we see ourselves so profoundly in footwear,” Rojas explains.
In her first solo exhibition at the end of last year, called You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie, Rojas showed a selection of ceramic shoes, bridging the gap between fashion and art and questioning the meanings behind style, branding and identity. She is currently spending lockdown creating hyperrealistic paintings of fashion accessories – and working on a book featuring photographs of her ceramic shoe sculptures taken in public places around New York City. “I’m inspired by objects that serve the function of clothing the body,” Rojas says, “and highlighting it through a medium where its function is removed.”
How is your work unique to you, or informed by your perspective, experiences, or identity?
Diana ‘Didi’ Rojas: I grew up in a very small town outside the city of Cali, Colombia. In 1998, my family (mom, dad and twin) moved to the US in pursuit of ‘the American Dream’. My parents left their family, friends, and community aspiring to provide a better future for Mars (my twin) and me. Despite all of the hardships, it’s hard to imagine how different our lives would have been if we’d stayed. My work carries with it a sense of resourcefulness instilled by my parents and our experience of being immigrants in the US.
What issues or causes are you passionate about and why?
Diana ‘Didi’ Rojas: Through my practice, I question why we buy what we buy. We live in a world where outward appearances have a social value. What if we technically can have the things we want others to see we have – even if they are made of paper, clay, or other materials?
How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you, your work, and/or your community?
Diana ‘Didi’ Rojas: It’s been a very intense and uncertain time. I’m mainly worried about my parents’ health and livelihood since their job requires them to be at their workplace. It has made my ability to get to my studio more difficult, so I’ve been working on paintings from home. It’d be great to show these pieces alongside work from other artists who’ve also been affected after things settle. This situation has forced me to become more resourceful and on a more positive note, it has helped me see that, oftentimes, we make parameters around what we create but that we’re free to break them at any time to keep pushing our practice in ways that may surprise us.
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Diana ‘Didi’ Rojas: I want to expand an ongoing photo project into a series of short films that tell stories about the lives of our shoes and therefore the life of their wearer. My plan is to write various narratives for a pair of shoes. The film will have two voices, one for each shoe. The dialogue will be between the left and the right shoe.
The project is a reflection on my experience of being an identical twin. I want to express the significance of individual identity through a pair of shoes. Even though the look and function of each shoe is similar, the right shoe only fits the right foot and the left shoe only fits the left foot. I’d love to be able to fully consider wardrobe and location when filming this project as well as renting all necessary equipment to make it look and feel the way I intend.