Tempe Artist Amiel Cruz's Colorful Style Is a Surrealist Fiesta

Amiel Cruz in front of trash-turned-art in his home.
Amiel Cruz in front of trash-turned-art in his home.
Andie Flores

Once, while on trash duty at the Chinese restaurant he worked at, Amiel Cruz found a beautiful painting of a woman wedged between some dumpsters.

The 20-year-old kept the painting, took it home, and made it his own by placing thumbtacks through the woman's face. Cruz's eye for art and his own sense of style are very much the same: Do it yourself, do it well, and do it a little crazy.

See also: Bridget Lang's Style Is Inspired by Glitter, Vintage, and Rock 'n' Roll

Born in the Philippines, Cruz has lived in Arizona for most of his life, and grew up doodling and drawing different cartoons he watched.

"I remember doing a bunch of drawings when I was younger of people made out of shapes," recalls Cruz. "I was also getting very into photography at that time, so being in creative classes at school allowed me to play with those things."

Cruz loves both learning about art history and making it himself. The Tempe resident doesn't stick to just one medium. He's always jumping between phases of media like watercolor or construction paper. Cruz is constantly pursuing new projects and hopes to work with papier mâché next.

"A lot of my inspiration comes from the surrealism movement," says Cruz. "I love artists like Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, and I love looking at other people's art. I have so many friends who are artists and they inspire me greatly."

Cruz's love of art and eye for color and pattern deeply influence how he fashions himself every day.

"Even just from working with construction paper, you have such a limited color palette. When you make color choices, simple decisions can take what you're creating and make it extreme. I feel like clothes are like that, too. You have to play with dulling down bright colors or brightening up dull ones."

The fuel to Cruz's creative fire comes from being around passionate people. He's been involved with The Underground Foundation, or TUF, at Arizona State University for a while now.

TUF, an organization founded and run by ASU students, is all about creating and hosting opportunities to showcase independent music and art around Tempe.

"I wish I would have found it sooner," says Cruz. "Everyone is so creative about music and the arts, and it's so inspiring. The collaborative community really helped me flourish and thrive."

Cruz says the creative family he's built through TUF is a great community for both the social aspect and for the challenge of developing new creative opportunities, like the art show he held in his home in early June.

"Giving local artists opportunities to show their art is the coolest thing in the entire world," he says.

You can check out Cruz's art on his Tumblr,  

What are you wearing? I'm wearing these pants that I roll up and turn into shorts, which are really festive. I call them my Kwanzaa pants, and my friend gave them to me. I found this shirt at Cellar Door Vintage and it's also very festive. I call it my piñata shirt. It looks like a fiesta threw up on me. My head wrap is a gift from my friend, and I use it to hold my hair back and compliment my outfits.

Where do you usually shop? When I do go shopping, I go to Goodwill, Savers, and any thrift stores I find.

What was the last item of clothing you bought? I usually get clothes from friends, but my last purchase were some blue acid wash cut-off shorts that I wear all the time.

Name five things every man should have in his closet. 1) A pair of cut-offs to show off those calves 2) Pants that can easily transition into shorts 3) A fun, comfortable shirt that also looks really good 4) A reliable and good-looking head accessory like a hat or head wrap 5) A nice cardigan or something to layer on top of your outfit

What's a trend you can't stand? Bucket hats . . . ugh! I am also not a fan of high socks paired with Vans. But hey, it's not my body, so do your thing.

Give us a childhood memory of you and clothes. I have a really bad memory, but I was looking through baby photos and found this picture of me wearing these green overalls. My hair was flippy and I looked like a little girl in overalls. Gender bending at such a young age.

What's your one piece of fashion advice for Phoenix? Dress comfortably, but interestingly. The heat will get you.

Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.

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Cellar Door Vintage

906 N. 6th St.
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