By Juan Ramirez, news correspondent

A red rose encased in glass, a haunting Lana Del Rey playlist and the murmur of spectators created an ambiance artist Pedro Cruz found fitting for his current body of work.

Dead Roses: A Visual Interpretation of Love is a photography exhibit that opened on Jan. 29 at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts. Cruz described it as his way of depicting what he believes is “the beauty in the darkness of love.” The works in this series take place in a bleak city and follow the theme of heartbreak and joy through images of two young women going about their day.

“There are pictures in there that show a point in time where everybody is happy and then there are pictures that show times of heartbreak,” Cruz said. “I’m sure anyone can relate to that.”

Cruz’s culture permeates both the atmosphere and the art through the two-room gallery, which exclusively promotes Latino artists and works. In the photographs, women’s intricate tattoos, feminine toughness and brightly-colored roses imply an association with Hispanic women.

“I’m not only a photographer; I’m a Puerto Rican photographer, or Latino photographer,”

Cruz said. “I emphasize that because where I come from a lot of people don’t see it, but it’s a struggle, so I like to highlight my roots and show my people that we can do something. I carry that like a title.”

Taking a step back from the art, however, reveals the story of a community’s pride and identity. Many gallery visitors are either Hispanic, from the Villa Victoria residences or both.

Elsa Mosquera is the arts program director of the Inquilinos Boricuan en Accion (IBA), an organization created to help Puerto Ricans prosper in Boston.

“This exhibit has a very significant meaning for the community. [Cruz] is a person born and raised here in Villa Victoria,” Mosquera said. “When he came to us and proposed his body of work, we were delighted.”

Though the theme of loneliness and melancholy take center stage in most of the photographs, there is an unmistakeable resilience and strength running through the series.

“I’m going to keep creating, keep inspiring people, keep giving a different light to city kids,” Cruz said. “We’re not all creating violence and getting in trouble, some of us are actually out here creating art.”

Cruz said he hopes to carry his vision into the world of writing by publishing a poetry book in the spring. He continues to work mainly in photography, however, which he said is the only way you can stop time.

“Photography is the point of view of the photographer,” he said. “In order for me to take that picture, I had to be there, I had to see it. So every picture you see is the closest you can get to my point of view.”

Dead Roses: A Visual Interpretation of Love will be on display at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts until Feb. 26. Viewings are only available through appointments.

Photo by Robert Smith