Art has always been a passion for Joseph Solorzano-Ruiz.
The Merrick Avenue Middle School seventh-grade student has left an impact on many — his parents, his teachers and even the school district — with his many creations. He has won a handful of awards this year alone, and his love of art, and his talent, are still developing.
An avid drawer, painter and sculptor, Joseph, 13, is fond of blending various media on the way to a finished project. He was moved to begin creating artwork, he said, at a young age, as he watched his older brother, Gary, also an artist, create his own pieces.
“I started just in notebooks — just sketching,” Joseph said. “But my brother, he started to really get into art, and I basically followed in his footsteps.”
Gary, 19, a 2021 graduate of Sanford H. Calhoun High School, is now studying art at Adelphi University. “I really learned a lot from him,” Joseph said of his brother. “It carried down to me.”
While he said he likes a lot of different styles, his favorite is realism. “A lot of people say it’s just copying stuff down,” Joseph said. “But if someone asks me to draw a picture, one thing that I’ve noticed is that if they say, ‘Oh, what do you think you can change about it?’ I’m able to change it. I sort of adapt it to my own style.”
This year, Joseph has picked up a couple of honors for his work. Last December, at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in North Merrick, where he attends religion class, he entered the Knights of Columbus Keep Christ in Christmas Poster Contest, which is run every year by the Catholic fraternal service organization.
He entered through the North Merrick-based Jeremiah J. Reilly Council, which is an affiliate of Sacred Heart. Across the country, in his age group, Joseph placed second. The winners were announced in March.
In addition to his Knights of Columbus poster, Joseph placed first in early March in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s World Languages Week Poster Contest.
“Now that I’m getting older, I’m able to win a lot of awards and stuff like that,” he said. “It makes me feel proud.”
Some of his work, in addition to his brother’s, can be seen in and around Merrick — they’ve both had pieces displayed at the Merrick and North Merrick libraries.
Their mom, Judy Solorzano-Ruiz said her sons’ work is amazing. “It’s just natural,” she said. “Out of nothing, they make something great.”
Despite Joseph’s recent success in poster contests, he particularly enjoys sculpting. He started working with his hands in elementary school, first making himself a helmet for a Halloween costume. Since then he has taken on more ambitious projects. In sixth grade, for a social studies project, he created a 6-foot-tall King Tut statue.
“I really do love to sculpt,” he said. “I use a bunch of household materials, like cardboard, foam. They used to be more delicate — now I can make them more high-quality.”
His art teacher at MAMS, Danielle Steiding, told the Herald that she was consistently impressed with both his artwork and the type of person he is. “As a person, Joe is beyond his years in maturity,” Steiding said. “He’s kind, empathetic, caring and mellow. In class, his talent shines through.”
She added that Joseph keeps progress reports on his work, so he can gauge his growth as an artist. “I can’t imagine him pursing a lifestyle that doesn’t include art,” she said. “He does really advanced stuff at home. Next year he’ll be able to enter a cultural arts award competition. He deserves everything that is coming to him.”
Though he’s just getting started, Joseph said that a dream job would be to work in the movie industry, designing sculptures or anything art-related for movie sets. Art, he added, is a form of therapy.
“What I love about it is that it’s stress-relieving for me,” he said. “I can sit there and just concentrate. I always feel extremely happy with whatever I create — it basically just puts my mind at ease.”