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Artist picks up the pieces

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Mar 21/05) - Jonathan Cruz, 23, paints striking images on old pieces of wood, bottles, even discarded skateboards.

The result is gritty and urban - a reflection of the world Cruz comes from and a world he is happy to leave behind for Iqaluit.

Jonathan Cruz, 23, opened his first solo art show at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in Iqaluit on March 12.

But the energy and pain of city life is something Cruz draws on for inspiration, and the public that flocked to the opening of his first solo art show appreciated his honesty.

Cruz, who is from Toronto, settled in Iqaluit in October 2004. His art show "Hybrid Theory" at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in Iqaluit, opened March 12 and runs until April 3.

Cruz answered questions for museum-goers all afternoon during the opening Saturday.

Many people wanted to know where he learned how to paint, where he gets his inspiration from and what his message is.

He is self-taught and attended Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont.

His inspirations are famous Cape Dorset artist Kenojuak Ashevak, urban music, urban life and his family.

Many of his messages are printed on professional, eye-catching promotional postcards and business cards piled next to the guest book at the museum.

But Cruz will tell you straight out that he is on a mission through his art to have a positive influence on young people who feel hopeless and marginalized - something he saw in the city, and something he sees all too often here in Iqaluit.

"My objective is to reach out to the kids," Cruz explained during the opening of the show. "And spark a fire with people. I want to let them know you can do your own thing. Be true to yourself."

Cruz got sick of the money-mad city life.

"Everything is about money down there. Your vision becomes so narrow," he said putting his hands on either side of his eyes. "Up here your vision just goes..." and with that he spread his hands slowly out from either side of his head.

"People here are more real," he said.

Clearly influenced by his new home, Cruz likes merging Inuit art and graffiti. He does this well with his edgy, colourful painting of Ashevak.

Paintings on the left side of the museum are not for sale. Many available on the right already have little red dots on them indicating they've been bought.