“There’s no right way to love,” the artist Ruben Rojas says, spreading his muscled arms wide. “It’s art. It’s cooking. It’s hugging. It’s quality time. It’s storytelling. You name it. Boy-girl, boy-boy, who cares? It doesn’t matter.”
This inclusive ethos has been a guide for Ruben’s life and may account for his success in so many areas. Rueben has been working as a muralist and sculptor for nearly a decade, and by selling his creations and merchandise from his website, he has also become an entrepreneur. It’s a radical departure for a man who once focused his life on climbing up the cooperate ladder.
Ruben grew up in working-class Panorama City as a three-sport athlete. Although he always had an artistic impulse, he aimed toward a career in medicine and graduated from Cal State Northridge with a degree in kinesiology. After school, he focused on financial success and dove into the freewheeling pre-2008 real estate scene.
But Ruben lost everything in the recession and was forced into bankruptcy. He rebuilt his life, working as a financial advisor for 10 years. Then he suddenly realized he wanted something more. “I was just miserable,” he recalls. In an effort “to heal,” he began tapping into his creative side and was soon moonlighting as a muralist throughout the Southland.
In 2013, Ruben realized it was time to cut the corporate tie off once and for all. “I’m like, ‘I just can’t go to the office anymore,’” he says. “Even my clients were telling me, ‘You need to go do that and stop doing this. We’ll be fine.’ Those were all the hints and the signs. And I finally just did it. I had to bet on myself.”
The artist’s signature works are colorful, large-scale pieces, which often repeat an affirmative mantra—the word “love”—in bright, swirling script. “I use the urban landscape as my canvas. Beige and gray is boring,” he explains.
Today his endeavors can be found everywhere, from France to Florida to the San Fernando Valley. This year he partnered with Westfield Topanga to create a five-piece art installation called “Summer of Love,” which included both murals and sculptures. If you visited the outdoor mall this past summer, you may have seen the towering, Instagram-worthy heart scrawled with the word “love.”
Ruben hopes these works serve as a form of motivation. “It seems like the world is in chaos and out of control, but you can do something. You have the power,” he says. “No, you don’t have to be the president. You don’t have to be a great inventor or a celebrity. You can just be you and effect change in your life, with your kids, with your friends, and then go from there. It’s a ripple effect.”
In 2018, he put his belief in the healing power of art to the test, working with inmates at the state prison in Lancaster to create a mural that reads “Forgive/Forgiven.” “We have to forgive ourselves before we can ask for forgiveness,” he says. “That just came about in conversations with these inmates.”
This past year Ruben has seen his practice expand in new ways as a result of the pandemic. He focused on pieces with informative, inspirational slogans like “You Can’t Quarantine Love” and “Love is Standing Six Feet Apart.”
To grow his message of hope through art, Ruben has also been cultivating his business via his website (rubenrojas.com), where he sells branded clothing, sportswear, inspiration boxes and commemorative prints, including a striking piece dedicated to Kobe Bryant. “I started making my art as accessible as I could for everyone. A T-shirt is easy, you know—$40 for a T-shirt. And then we are walking billboards of what we believe in.”
An entrepreneur at heart, the artist is intent on making “the love logo as big as the Nike swoosh slogan.” Instead of saying “Just Do It,” he hopes people will say “Live Through Love.”
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