We bet that you never imagined a world where Wonder Woman, Darth Vader and ancient Aztec warriors would all coexist in the same space. But that’s what sets the brilliant artists apart from the rest of us (those who are not quite as creatively blessed). Leave it to artist Jorge Garza (aka Qetza) to redefine how we see cultural icons of today and to make us rethink how those heroes relate to ancient warriors and heroes of the past.
Garza, who goes by the artist name Qetza, has a gift for blending the unexpected and bringing together ancient heroes with modern pop culture imagery. He is an illustrator/designer influenced by comics, horror illustration and pop culture. Most recently ancient cultural art of the Americas is heavily inspiring his work, which you can see at first glance. But when you look a little closer, there is far more depth to his pieces that you might initially realized. He blends pop cultural figures (think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hellboy, Batman and The Joker) with ancient Mayan, Incan and Aztec heroes, and while it might seem like an odd pairing or a mashup that is destined to fail, it actually works perfectly.
His work is unique, thought provoking and inspirational. And if you break down the details of why his work is so effective at both spreading joy but also sparking conversation, it becomes even more impressive.
Garza was born and raised in Lake Station, Indiana, a small city that was primarily white, but according to U.S. Census data, Hispanics currently make up about 33 percent of the population. Garza’s parents come from Mexican descent, and despite growing up his entire life in Indiana he was always fascinated by stories of Mexican history, folklore, ancient civilizations and the iconography and art of those cultures. He became incredibly passionate about how the Aztec, Incan, Mayan and other ancient civilizations used art and imagery to celebrate their unique traditions and also share their stories with future generations. But that passion wasn’t just a passing obsession or a phase; it became the inspiration and artistic focus for Garza’s work.
Qetza doesn’t simply draw Aztec warriors and modern art to look like ancient work. He takes it one step further and adds his unique spin on his works but combining two seemingly opposing, or at the very least unrelated, concepts and visuals and blending them together into one fluid image. He draws The Hulk — green muscles, bulging veins, inner rage and all — as an Aztec warrior. He draws Princess Leia as an Aztec warrior princess. And it works. The way that merges these somewhat random motifs, Garza ends up “blending these images into a single cohesive discourse about the consumption and presence of art into our everyday lives.” He mixes the unfamiliar, or maybe more accurately the ancient, with the familiar faces and characters you know from modern pop culture, and it makes you see everything in a new way.
According to his website, “Jorge’s work starts from pencil sketches that are scanned and reworked in Photoshop using a drawing tablet and his work ranges from simple to highly detailed pen and ink.” He uses that method of creation in all of his collections, including his Aztec/Pop Culture series that is being made into an art book. His work has been displayed at art shows across the country, and in addition his drawings are available on everything from T-shirts to magnets to stickers and sweatshirts. His work is whimsical, very detailed, colorful, and full of passion. It makes you rethink how art was used to help people communicate values and traditions back in ancient civilizations, and how we still use visual expression to communicate today. And through Qetza’s work, we can look at the heroes of today and the heroes of the past through a universal lens, which is exactly what he is going for.