Hundreds of people attended the opening of N.C. Central’s art museum fall exhibition on Aug. 11 to honor artwork by urban artist, educator, and entrepreneur José Manuel Cruz according to NCCU’s art production specialist Christine M. Perry.
Cruz named the exhibit “COLORICAN: A Retrospective,” a self-identifying term he created to describe his mixed heritage of having a Columbian mother and a Puerto Rican father according to a NCCU press release.
“A lot of the works in the collection, in general, kind of reflect his life because he is Latino, and he’s American, but he grew up with plenty of African Americans; so he’s exposed to all of these different cultures and ethnicities, and it reflects in his work,” Perry explained.
Cruz was raised in Newark, New Jersey. In the exhibit, Cruz dedicated each artwork after a family member, friend, or someone he knew to illustrate his appreciation for his heritage.
The Raleigh native used various airbrushing techniques, acrylic paints, oil paints, and an enamel pen to bring his artwork to life.
Cruz is an art teacher at Shepard Middle School in Durham.
The exhibit featured 66 pieces from his artwork collection including 3-D visuals such as lamps, skulls, basketballs, eggs, and many more according to Perry.
Perry stated Cruz painted portraits of his brothers, cousins, and other family members in the “Mi Familia” series.
Cruz’s 2019 painting “No Resistance” displayed a man shirtless wearing a brown hat in a palette of orange, blue, and green colors, with a polka-dotted background.
The main attraction at the exhibit was “The Don’t Shoot” series featuring three pieces of art displaying young black males with their hands up by their heads as a red dripping target covered their body.
Perry stated that the opening of the exhibition was such a “lovely turnout”, the museum decided to extend its hours. Cruz along with family, friends, NCCU faculty and staff, and people from the community attended the opening.
“It was nice! It was an exhibition that was supposed to close at four, but we had so many people coming in that we actually extended the hours. So between two o’clock when we first opened and five-thirty when we finally just said, ‘alright we have to go home’,” Perry said.
Perry added that “COLORICAN: A Retrospective” and prior exhibits have helped “close the gap between African American and Latino students” on NCCU’s campus.
Cruz was featured in the “Colores” exhibit in 2012 at NCCU’s art museum, a collection of artwork from Hispanic artists in honor of Hispanic Heritage month according to an NCCU press release.
“COLORICAN: A Retrospective” will be showcased until Oct. 11.
Perry mentioned Cruz will be coming to speak at NCCU on Sept. 25 about his artwork and how he was inspired to be an artist.