Daniel dela Cruz
Artist / Sculptor

The makings of this passionate and gifted sculptor have their beginnings in his early childhood: as a boy, Daniel dela Cruz was fascinated with molding clay, creating figures with the medium, and found objects as well. His passion for sculpture never left, even when he had completed a degree in Philosophy from the University of the Philippines; he entered the professional sphere as a product designer and worked in the handicraft export industry. His path took a turn to the art world on his 40th birthday, in 2007. “Forty seemed to mark bucket-list time so, I suppose it inspired me to think big and do something special,” he remembers. Counting legendary artist Arturo Luz and national architect Lor Calma as mentors and supporters, dela Cruz marked his 40th year with Kandungan, his first solo show, and debut as an exhibiting artist, which was an ode to the female figure and presence and to motherhood. Dela Cruz draws upon both his education and professional experience to facilitate the creation, design, and production of his projects, including the 2019 SEA Games’ iconic medal and torch. Gifted with more than mere creativity, he is equipped with technical savoir-faire and, most importantly, a functioning network of suppliers and a skilled team of artisans. In his words: “Some of the workers have been with me since my early years at that export company. We started together; now, we’re growing old together.” From being robustly hewn to having been delicately executed, dela Cruz’s works are evocative and dynamic; the figurative ones are anchored in narratives from the heart. “A lot of people suffer in silence,” dela Cruz says. “A lot of people suffer without the chance to express themselves.” Over the years, he has had a number of exhibits that were socially relevant, his concern for others naturally prompting him to critique current issues. His show Material Culture (Art Cube Gallery, 2020), for example, was a commentary on people’s obsession with material possessions, the cult of brands, and the power of pop-culture icons. Finding the Light, on the other hand, his exhibit for the 2019 Art Fair Philippines, was designed to open up discussion and shed light on mental health issues—topics normally considered taboo to even bring out in the open. In his iOS-lation series, dela Cruz explores the literal prison of isolation that social media and rapid, modern technology can and really do impose on us. Appropriating the ever-too-familiar mobile phone screen as a cage, dela Cruz also shows his understanding of the fragility of the human condition, and how technology exacerbates this by facilitating comparison and negativity and aggregating into a serious threat to people’s mental and emotional health. Yet in all of this, it is in his compassion and duty to other artists that dela Cruz continues to find meaning: “I’m at this point where I want to give back to the [visual arts] community… It’s nice to make or do something that will outlive us.” Indeed, with the Visual Arts Helping Hands Foundation, which he founded in 2017 and is currently leading, Daniel dela Cruz has done exactly that.