meet an artist mondayIn her writing, painting, video, performance and installation practice, artist Karla Diaz tells kaleidoscopic stories of introspection, memory, and identity. With an irrepressible love of pure color, syncopated pattern and rich textures arrayed in luminous layers, Diaz combines portraits, landscape, scenic vignettes and glowing aspects of dreamlike abstraction. With influences ranging from the exuberant aesthetics familiar to her childhood in Mexico, American popular culture through a Latinx perspective, cognitive neuroscience she was forced to learn from lived experience, and the indispensable foundation of community and collaboration, Diaz’s emotionally complex surrealism is both deeply personal and substantively engaged in a wider cultural discourse. As a co-founder of the progressive grassroots creative collective Slanguage Studios, Diaz expresses her dedication to teaching and to telling stories of marginalized people in energetic, imaginative ways.

Karla Diaz La Mata Viejitas 2022 watercolor and ink on paper 15x20in hi res

Karla Diaz: La Mata Viejitas, 2022, watercolor and ink on paper, 15×20 in (Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles)

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist? 

KARLA DIAZ: Since childhood. I loved drawing and always saw things differently. Whether it was drawing on my bedroom walls or skipping gym class to draw on the floor of the basketball courts—I almost got kicked out from school because I intended to draw the Star of David, but instead drew a pentagon.


What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?

Poetry and stories rendered in drawings and paintings.


What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

Probably a Detective because I love stories, details, and putting things together.

Karla Diaz Torera bullfighter II 2023 Watercolor and ink on paper 40 x 60 in

Karla Diaz: Torera (Bullfighter II), 2023, watercolor and ink on paper, 40×60 in (Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles)

Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?

Yes, but not until I was accepted for the third time, because I didn’t have money to pay for it. I also had to teach myself a lot recently because I am a stroke survivor and forgot a lot of my arts formal training.


Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?

For three reasons: I was born here—L.A. is home, it’s memory, it’s my ties to my community. Second, we have the best weather, people, places, and Mexican food. And third, it has a special light and as a painter this influences my color palette.

Karla Diaz Lucha en La Calle Street Fight 2022 watercolor and ink on paper 15x22in hi res

Karla Diaz: Lucha en La Calle (Street Fight), 2022, watercolor and ink on paper, 15×22 in (Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles)

When was your first show? 

In 1995 I was in a small community group show at the Arts Center I grew up going to called Homeland Cultural Center in Long Beach founded by artist Dixie Swift and writer Manazar Gamboa.


When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project? 

My solo exhibition at 18th Street Arts Center Airport Campus, titled Wait ’til Your Mother Gets Home, opens Saturday, February 17th and runs through June 22. The exhibition emphasizes a cultural context of social upheaval and justice through narrative paintings. I will be doing a guided walkthrough with the curator at the opening on February 17th at 5:30pm. In April, I will have another solo exhibition with my gallery Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, titled Mujer Valiente y Los Diablitos, it’s based on a fictional musical ballad.

Karla Diaz Los Diablitos Band II 2023 Watercolor and ink on paper 40 x 60 in

Karla Diaz: Los Diabolitos Band II, 2023, watercolor and ink on paper, 40×60 in (Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles)

What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?

Norman Rockwell. I stared at prints of his paintings at the lunch buffet my mother used to take us on special occasions. I love how he captured daily life. Simple details in faces or an eyebrow lifted suggests so much visually.


Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?

Yes, reggae, oldies, ballads, opera. I love opera.


Website and social media handles, please!

IG: @Karladiaz76


Karla Diaz Moms Crossing 2021 Watercolor and ink on paper 18x24in hi res

Karla Diaz: Mom’s Crossing, 2021, watercolor and ink on paper, 18×24 in (Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus Los Angeles)






























































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