Posted up on the inside edge of the fluorescent yellow and magenta panels of the DoLab, Erik De La Cruz spends his days at Coachella blending colors while listening to beats and getting high off of the sparkling vibes of the crowd. De La Cruz, who’s known among the festival community as “Dela,” is on the radar as one of the up and coming muralists of our time for his environment-conscious and spiritually symbolic style that’s known to move people to tears. From Burning Man to Lightning In a Bottle and now painting at his first Coachella, Dela’s experience as an artist has been, as he describes, an epic journey of envisioning dreams into reality.
“I didn’t know that my art was going to take me to the places it has,” says Dela, who’s hands and forearms are coated in paint. “It’s just amazing. I’ve met so many people and made so many friends just because I decided to take a chance on art. It’s taken me on the most epic adventure.”
From early afternoon until sunset each day, Dela’s set up lies stage left behind a small roped off area where he climbs up and down a latter to paint an image of what looks like a galactic Triceratops. Upwards of 10 feet high and 12 feet long, the image incorporates messages of rebelling against fracking, or the destructive process of extracting natural gas or oil from the Earth, and embracing green energy instead. Just as fossilized bones are the only remaining proof of the dinosaurs’ existence, the concept of Dela’s current mural is to raise consciousness to the fact that if we continue down the path of natural oil and gas extraction, the devastation caused over time will send the world catapulting into extinction.
Born in Baja, Mexico, Dela spent his early years in Puerto Rico before coming to the United States, where he’s been for the last 20 years. In his own way, Dela’s murals add a touch of soul to Coachella culture, where art is secondary to the music. Yet his work with the DoLab helps give that stage a sense of being in a different realm, much like a rabbit hole with swirling, galactic colors.
With live paintings scheduled for LIB, Electric Forest and Burning Man this summer, he plans on bringing his spacey, psychedelic soul to plenty of blank canvases throughout the festival season. “It’s amazing what can happen when you take a chance and follow your passion. Painting and art are just as important as music at festivals, and I hope I can help people see that.”