Balancing Act: San Antonio creative Analy Diego multitasks in style

In addition to creating and selling artwork at AnArte Gallery and Feliz Modern, Diego is a busy interior designer who teaches in the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design at UTSA.

click to enlarge Analy Diego captured by Fernando DeHaro amid her AnArte exhibition "Over the Rainbow." - Fernando DeHaro
Fernando DeHaro
Analy Diego captured by Fernando DeHaro amid her AnArte exhibition "Over the Rainbow."

Born in Laredo and raised across the U.S.-Mexico border in Nuevo Laredo, Analy Diego felt the pull of art from an early age — thanks largely to the influence of her grandfather Miguel Angel Patino, who once worked as a movie poster artist.

"Some of my earliest childhood memories are sitting on his lap while he read books to me," Diego recalled. "Instead of regular children's books he would show me books about Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. And he loved Walt Disney. He instilled in me an admiration for Disney and artists in general."

Patino was skilled enough as an artist that he caught the attention of a Disney exec who was passing through his hometown of Mazatlán. As a result, he set off to chase his dreams in Los Angeles.

"He tried to go to LA and start his career with Disney but he never made it past Laredo — that's where he met my grandma," Diego recounted.

Honing her painting skills since the age of 6, Diego intended to study studio art in college but her father Cesar de la Cruz persuaded her to pursue something more marketable.

click to enlarge Diego's latest paintings are based on naturalistic photographs she takes herself. - Courtesy Image / Analy Diego
Courtesy Image / Analy Diego
Diego's latest paintings are based on naturalistic photographs she takes herself.

"My dad asked me, 'Why go to college for art if you can already do it?' We used to travel a lot, and he noticed that I always had an interest in architecture. He said, 'Why don't you study architecture or interior design and then incorporate artwork into that field?'"

Fast-forward a few decades and Diego is doing exactly that, taking cues from both her grandfather's artistry and her father's practicality.

In addition to creating and selling artwork at the Alamo Heights gallery AnArte and the Olmos Park gift shop Feliz Modern, Diego is a busy interior designer who teaches in the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Outside of her professional life, she's also raising two kids — ages 3 and 6 — with her husband Fernando Diego, a managing partner at Metropolitan Contracting.

Making spaces

After a semester studying at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Diego weighed her transfer options and eventually set her sights on San Antonio.

"San Antonio just felt like the right place for me," she said of her move in the fall of 2004. Between earning her bachelor's degree in interior design in 2008 and her master's in architecture in 2011, Diego worked for big-name firms but ultimately decided office life wasn't the best fit.

"It was a great learning opportunity," she said. "But working in a big corporate office was not for me. I wanted a smaller environment."

Diego found that smaller environment in the classroom when she started teaching architecture and interior design at UTSA, where she's still a faculty member.

click to enlarge Analy Diego photographed amid her interior design work at CommonWealth. - Rafa Ibanez
Rafa Ibanez
Analy Diego photographed amid her interior design work at CommonWealth.

Since getting her interior design license in 2017, Diego has created a number of prominent spaces — including a handful of locations at Hemisfair. Starting off on a high note, Diego was tapped to design the model units and lobby spaces for the '68 Apartments at the downtown development, which she gave a slick, contemporary spin with poppy accents including a color-blocked heart mural she painted onsite. That high-profile project led to others on the Hemisfair campus, such as the bright and airy Re:Rooted 210 wine bar, the intimate CommonWealth Coffeehouse and Bakery and even the retro-inspired signage for the complex's parking garages.

"It's happened organically," Diego said of her design portfolio, which is about 70% commercial and 30% residential. "I'm very thankful that I started with hospitality," she continued, citing the creative freedom and playfulness the industry can often entertain.

One telling example of Diego's deft fusion of art and design can be seen at CommonWealth's Jones Avenue location. Nodding to the local chain's celebration of French culture and cuisine, Diego adorned a series of mirrors with vector illustrations featuring France's national bird: the Gallic rooster. Blending form and function, the eye-catching mirrors have become a signature of Diego's artistic practice.

"She's a renaissance woman — and I'm honored to represent her," AnArte founder Ana Montoya said. "She's an artist, a designer, an architect, a professor and a mom — and she defines creativity."

click to enlarge Diego has actively moved away from vector illustrations of recognizable figures. - Courtesy Image / Analy Diego
Courtesy Image / Analy Diego
Diego has actively moved away from vector illustrations of recognizable figures.

Aesthetic evolution

Within the San Antonio art scene, Diego is perhaps best recognized for her pop art-inspired illustrations of celebrities and icons — which run the gamut from Frida Kahlo and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Tower of the Americas and Warhol-esque cans of fideo and tortilla soup. Ironically, it's a style Diego has actively moved away from.

"I illustrated a lot of people I admire," she explained. "But those were kind of like a warmup — definitely not what I want to focus on moving forward."

Practice exercise or not, Diego's digital forays into pop portraiture have a distinct point of view — one that's on full display in her mariachi and Marilyn Monroe tributes, both of which capture iPhone selfies.

"We love how seamlessly Analy merges mod aesthetics and San Antonio mainstays," Feliz Modern co-founder Ginger Diaz said. "By distilling the design down to its elements, she transports us to a place between nostalgia and the city San Antonio will be tomorrow."

As part of an ongoing artistic evolution, Diego has started creating paintings and illustrations based on her own photos.

"I started photographing cactus and flowers ... and reading about Georgia O'Keeffe," Diego said. "I took a creative trip to Marfa, and that's kind of where it all started."

This naturalistic departure has given way to a new series of paintings based on artisanal Mexican crafts that hearken to her childhood in Nuevo Laredo — with specific nods to Talavera tile and animal-centric Otomi embroidery.

During our chat, Diego offered a preview of her latest series, which she plans to show at AnArte later this year. Winning examples of her parallel interests in art and design, the new paintings almost resemble handcrafted tapestries, albeit carefully adorned with layers of glitter.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Diego's kids find her studio practice alluring.

"They want to get involved but they want to work with the glitter — and glitter is messy," she said. "But I give them scraps to play with while I do my thing. It's become an art activity for all of us but it doesn't happen very often because I like working at night — when they're asleep."

When asked about balancing art-making, interior design, teaching and motherhood, Diego confirmed that her plate is full. In addition to working on her forthcoming AnArte exhibition, Diego is designing several homes in San Antonio and Austin, a corporate office in Universal City and four coffee shops.

"I'm at a place in my career where I might need to let go of some my responsibilities," she said. "Or maybe take a little break — but we'll see."

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