When he’s not working as a security officer for the Boston Municipal Department, he’s an artist and poet who carves intricate designs out of card stock and glues them down to create detailed artwork. His name is Ismael Cruz, and he’s a Jamaica Plain resident who hopes to spread the word about his art and poetry.
His sons, Anthony, 28, and Mason, 10, have followed in their father’s footsteps and each also have their own style of artwork.
“Art is in our blood,” he told the Gazette. Cruz said he began his work with paper when he picked up a pair of scissors one day and just started cutting paper. His very first piece includes colorful bits of paper glued down in an abstract design with his wife’s name, Holly, spelled out in paper.
After that project, he thought about creating another piece for his son’s upcoming birthday. The paper pieces depict two koi fish and the name “Anthony” in Chinese.
“I kept going from there,” he said. Right now, he is working on his portfolio and has several large framed pieces in his home. He works in a small, windowless room in his JP apartment, where he also stores his collection of baseball memorabilia. There, he has a table set up with packages and packages of Elmer’s glue sticks, and an organizer filled with different sheets of colored paper.
Cruz said his work is “unduplicatable,” and never makes the same piece more than once. He also does not sketch out his ideas beforehand—everything is placed once and that’s where it remains.
“I want people to see my messages [and] technique,” he said.
Sometimes Cruz incorporates his poetry into his art as well, and also has a book of his poetry that includes nearly 300 poems. One such poem, titled “Phoenix Fly,” is featured on scorched paper underneath a brightly colored, intricately detailed paper phoenix. It will be on display at City Hall very shortly as part of the Fay Chandler Art show, he said.
Another one of his poems, titled “Life in the Bricks,” is featured in an art piece as well. The poem is about life in the Bromley Heath Apartments, where Cruz grew up. He said that a firefighter has expressed interest in making the piece into a billboard to inspire youth in the neighborhood. He also has a piece about what’s happening in Ukraine.
“I have all types,” he said—“some that can be printed into posters,” and some that can be sold “as-is.” He said he would love to be able to do something with the Ukraine piece and donate the proceeds to Ukrainian relief efforts.
Cruz has been doing art and poetry since the third grade, but the piece he created several years ago for his wife really got him into the technique he uses now.
His son, Anthony, graduated from Mount Ida College with a degree in graphic design. He is also a professional photographer, and uses paper as well, but in a different way. Anthony’s technique is more collage-based, and he started by taking clippings from magazines and pasting them together on a piece of paper.
“I really didn’t get started until really late in high school,” Anthony said, as he chose to focus more on his studies. But after taking a graphic design and film production class in high school, he discovered he enjoyed creating stories using images.
Anthony combines photography, typography, and graphic design. “They all became under one umbrella for me,” he said.
When he first started, he said didn’t know what direction he wanted to go in as far as his artistic work, but he found his niche in collage-style art, experimenting with different textures like denim as well as incorporating paint.
“I basically started with magazines,” he said, that were going to be thrown out at his college.
He then started to create more fashion pieces, and designed a hoodie and some T-shirts, as well as his own logo, which can be seen on his website at anthonyleecruz.com. There, his graphic design work and photography can also be viewed.
He said that though he does graphic design work full-time, he likes to “separate the commercial side” and the experimental side of his art where he can take more time to work on a project.
He said that “graphic design was definitely a great stepping stone for me. It developed that part of my brain. I took a lot of those traits and skills and applied it to my mixed media. I’m a creative guy,” he said.
Mason, Cruz’s 10-year-old son, has taken to drawing and using colored pencils to create his artwork. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Cruz said. “This child is amazing.”
Cruz spends hours in his art room, cutting and pasting, according to his wife Holly. She praised him for his creativity and his dedication to the craft.
Cruz used to take commissions, but has since stopped because he wants to focus on pieces for his portfolio. He’s currently working on his 11th piece for his portfolio.
He plans on launching his portfolio in January, as well as creating posters and T-shirts with his artwork. “If someone wants a piece of that art, they’re able to buy it at an affordable price,” he said. “My art is very diverse and it has so many different roles,” Cruz said. “The magic happens when you see it in person.”