Artist Kenneth Ruiz’s collages piece together parts of life
By Rachel Galvin
Once a graffiti artist and gang member, Kenneth Ruiz has turned his life around to become an amazing artist.
He began his journey in life in Chicago’s Humboldt Park area before moving to South Florida and attending Deerfield Beach High School. This 1995 graduate took art classes and was voted “Most Artistic” in his senior year. Little did he know at the time that art would be so powerful in his future.
The challenges he faced in his early life were nothing compared to what would happen later.
He explained, “I have lived through some things most people only read about. None of those experiences prepared me for losing my mother. I was devastated. It completely altered my life. It changed me in a way that I wish she was here to see. It made me appreciate life and the people in it.”
He added, “Losing my mom also had a strange effect. I lost the ability to draw. I used to draw freehand very well; but when she passed away, I was no longer able to do it. It was as if something turned off.”
Luckily, his wife encouraged him to turn back to an artistic style he had tried years before making collages, which came about after speaking with a friend involved with fine art back in 2008. Ruiz asked him about art and he said that art should tell a story, what the artist is about, which inspired Ruiz to create something for his wall at home.
“For 4-1/2 months, everyday, when I came home, I worked on a collage that represented things about me and my life,” he said, adding, “My second piece was not until five years later when my mother passed away.”
His collages are made the old-fashioned way, by cutting and pasting. After that, it becomes a bit more complicated.
“It is quite tedious. Once the piece is done, it goes to a fine art photographer who specializes in collage art and it is shot at very high resolution. The original accompanies the image to color correction, where the only adjustments made is to the colors to make sure they match the original. The final piece is a fine art giclee on canvas or museum paper. The image is sprayed on at 300 dpi making it extremely clear. None of my pieces are created digitally, nor are they touched up. They are cut with scissors and on some of the new pieces I have used razor blades,” said Ruiz.
He added, “The first piece I sold was inspirational because they were not for sale at the time. We were having dinner with a well-known person in the art world and he spotted one my pieces hanging on the wall. When he found out I made it and saw, surprisingly, that I had more, he said to me, ‘I have traveled around the world and seen collage art and I have never seen it done like this.’ He said if I decided to make it a business, he would buy the first one, and he did. I was thrilled!”
That was in 2013. He registered his business as MagChop in 2014. He has been creating a diverse collection of pieces ever since, including custom-made ones. He sells them to individuals he knows and also at events.
When people see his pieces, he gets an excited response.
He said, “A lot of my art takes them back to an era of good memories and they are thrilled about that. Some people relate right away and say, ‘This is so me!’ I have had clients call me and say, ‘I look at this everyday and I see something new!’”
When asked how he gets inspired to do his pieces, he replied, “It depends on the piece. To create, I have to relate. I have to know the inner aspects; for instance, I created “The Champions Line,” the first official fine art memorabilia for champion race car driver Ernie Francis Jr. I was never a fan of racing and didn’t know much about it, but I am an auto [and Lowrider] enthusiast so this was an exciting project. I attended the races, spoke to fans, went to the paddock with the team, stood at the pit and even helped work on a car at a race. I learned little details about racing that I otherwise would have gotten wrong. They loved it! It took about four months to complete and actually had a revision that made it remarkable.
One piece called “Ladies Touch” took seven months to complete. The influence came from different women in my life whom I have loved in different ways.”
His favorite piece is called “First Impression.”
“It is my favorite piece. It is the first piece I made and it really is symbolic of aspects of my life. It is also the only piece my mother had seen,” he said.
He added, “There are “Easter Eggs” in all my pieces … little hidden things that relate to me … even in custom pieces.”
“My art has opened a door for me to speak to youth through art workshops at the Boys & Girls Club in Ft. Pierce and I have spoken at youth conferences for “E.N.D. IT” at a church in Port St. Lucie. I believe in giving back to our communities,” he said.
Asked where he hopes to be in five years, he responded, “To have one of the many upcoming MagChop products in every home! It sounds wild, but think about the jobs I can give people with MagChop growing to that level. We have created movie posters and book covers and hired the assistance of local artists. The dream is more about the opportunities for my children, my community and our country.”
To find out more about this artist and his work, visit www.MagChop.com or find him on social media.