Elements of Living - 2005
Modern Glamour - 2004
House Beautiful - June 2003
Interior Design - March 2003
Veranda - January 2001
In Style - 2002
Leading Estates of the World
Fine Living – A Division of Wall St. Journal 2005
Jacks of All Trades
"Of the many artisans the Insiders rely on to make their spaces truly custom, Elements of Living profiles five standouts in decorative painting, concrete, textiles, glasswork and architectural woodworking."
Maria Apelo Cruz, a classically trained decorative painter from Los Angeles, works 24/7. Though she specializes in classical reproductions, copying the style of long-dead painters is only one of the many ways she keeps herself busy. Consider: Her recent commissions include restoring public murals, designing upholstery, and reviving the art of chinoiserie.
"I'd never make a good gallery artist," she says, unabashed. "I'll do a piece of furniture one week, someone's ceiling the next." Many commissions come from decorators wanting that rare "signature piece" - an especially grand painting - to complete a room. Either they can't find it or, more likely, their clients can't afford it. Thus, Apelo Cruz has painted numerous masterworks in the style of Italian Renaissance painters.
A recent commission for a Beverly Hills client called for a vanity chest in the chinoiserie. Apelo Cruz received the cabinet from the carpenter in a raw state and then used 23-karat gold paint to apply the fantastically intricate images of imagined "life in a fishing village." She finished by aging the vanity with coatings of lacquer and crackle varnishes to suggest a nineteenth-century English provenance.
Earlier this year, the artist was hired to repaint a trompe l'oeil mural from 1905, uncovered during the recent restoration of the Pacific Electric Building in downtown Los Angeles. Hidden under layers of plaster and paint, and originally made to appear as if it had all been executed in tile, the mural was almost completely devoid of color. In some sections, the imagery itself was missing. To recreate the lost sections, Apelo Cruz used a technique that has not changed since Michelangelo: She forced charcoal dust (called "pounce") through tiny holes in a new drawing to transfer it to its rightful place on a wall. Using the original colors she'd discovered in her research, Cruz then set to work painting.
What drives Apelo Cruz is a passion for the past. For example, while planning for an eye-catching, painted antique mirror commissioned by designer Kelly Wearstler for the small Beverly Hills hotel Maison 140, she discovered an old treatise at the Getty Research Library describing how such decorative mirrors were made 150 years ago. "Not only do I love antiques," she confesses, "but I love to recreate what I find most beautiful. Luckily for me enough people have a need for my particular skill."