This is the story of how one woman used her art to show other women their beauty.
By Sloane Wick
Becoming the Artist
Cindy Lopez comes from a long line of artists. Her grandmother crafted hats, her mother was a sculptor and her grandfather was a self-taught painter. “I grew up…sneaking into his studio,” Lopez says with a smile. “I have all of his paintbrushes.”
Lopez credits her family as her biggest supporters while she developed her artistic skills. “When I was very young, I drew a little lion…and my grandfather took that drawing and had a notepad made out of it with the lion at the top,” she says with an edge of pride in her voice. “That made me feel so special, like, ‘Oh my gosh, my work’s good enough for a notepad.’ When you’re a little kid that makes you feel great.”
Even Lopez’s father did everything he could to support his daughter’s creativity, bringing her the tools she needed to get her creative start.
“My father worked in computers, and he would bring home these large reams of computer paper that had holes all the way down the side,” Lopez says. “My childhood was just drawing and drawing and drawing on that paper.”
With all the support and passion for creativity in her family, it was no surprise when Lopez chose to pursue the arts as a career. She attended Texas State University, earning her BFA in commercial art in 1986. In the years since, her work has been displayed and sold at various galleries and public venues across Texas and California.
Becoming the Painter
Like many artists, Lopez was initially unsure of her skills as she began to develop her artistic lens and learned to paint. She can vividly recall feeling this doubt in a class she took at Texas State.
“You had students in there that were taking, two [or]three weeks to do these beautiful watercolors with a sailboat on the water or a house in the field, and really getting into their details and making sure their work was perfect, and I was kind of just doing all this abstract stuff,” Lopez says. “I felt insecure because I was whipping through these paintings. I wasn’t doing this fantastic work that I thought my parents were doing, but I kept going because I enjoyed it.”
Lopez’s perspective was completely changed when her art teacher pointed out that she had done 72 paintings while most students had only completed two to three.
“He said, ‘Right now, quantity is better than quality,’” Lopez says. “That stuck with me. Here I thought I was less than [my peers], and I was doing something positive in his eyes. He’s right. The more you do, the more you learn, and you just keep going and going and keep going. You’re gonna have paintings that are crap, and you just move on and you learn from each of those.”
Becoming the Bra Maker
Lopez’s art career transformed radically when Dr. Rocco Piazza, an Austin plastic surgeon who specializes in an aesthetic approach to breast reconstruction, asked her to design and create a bra for the 2015 Art Bra Austin fundraiser runway show. All the models in the show are breast cancer survivors and clients of the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Texas.
“Once I agreed to do the bra event, then they asked my friend [Robin Perras], who got me in touch with them, if she would model it,” Lopez recalled. “[It] became super special to me to be creating something for her. My main goal was to make sure she felt beautiful. That was really, really important to me.”
Lopez ran into some issues during the first bra fitting with Perras. “She put it on and I could tell she just didn’t like the way it fit,” Lopez recalls. “I said, “Let me try again.’ I painted a new one for her, and when she put it on, I could see in her face how she felt. I just can’t explain to you the emotion you get from that. Just because they’ve been through so much.”
Since then, Lopez has created a new bra every year for the show.
“These women get to tell their story, and it’s heartbreaking, [but]it’s also inspiring,” Lopez says. “A lot of tears are shed, and you’re just so proud of them. They do feel empowered being on that runway and they feel beautiful, which was my goal.”