Aida Cynthia DeSantis, aka “Cindy Pop,” a 16-year artist-in-residence at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, passed away Jan. 18.
She was born into a tightly knit family in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, named Conshohocken, and came to Los Angeles in 1988.
DeSantis was an artist-in-residence at The Drawing Room in Santa Monica before landing a studio at 18th Street Arts Center in 1993, where she and Sweetheart, her devoted German shepherd sidekick, distributed her cartoon strip, Pink Poodleland, said Jan Williamson, 18th Street Arts Center executive director.
DeSantis was a self-taught, outsider artist, Williamson said. Before coming to Los Angeles, she was the lead singer in a Philadelphia band, The Yaya’s. Her early influences were Patti Smith, Andy Warhol, Meatloaf, David Bowie, Lou Reed, B-52’s, John Cougar Mellencamp and her parents. Her cartoons were regularly published in the Coagula Art Journal.
Her crafted art series “SOS” (Save our Ship) was featured in the L.A. Weekly. Made from toys hammered onto woodblock and painted with DeSantis’ wisecracks, they were originally inspired in 2004 during the presidential election.
In addition to being a visual artist, she loved singing and performing, Williamson said. DeSantis collaborated with artists including Rochelle Fabb and Michael Sakamoto’s Empire of Teeth, Kelly Mantle, DeadLee and Micah Barnes.
She served as the box office manager at Highways Performance Space until her passing. Additionally, she was on the production team of Pop Tarts, Highways’ long running performance lab, and her studio next door was a welcoming second green room and after-party hangout for the artists and staff, Williamson noted.
The 18th Street Arts executive director said DeSantis was adored by her hundreds of fans who followed her and her cartoon characters on Facebook and Myspace.
A memorial service with a Valentine’s Day theme is scheduled at Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, Sunday Feb. 10.

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