This article originally appeared in PureHoney Magazine. Check them out here.
In times of turmoil, art is a powerful tool. Be it as a coping mechanism or as an agent for change, the arts provide a therapeutic release for both practitioner and beholder. For Palm Beach County artist Juan Carlos Badia Cabero, his portraiture practice would take a turn into therapy after the social unrest events of 2020 and a fortunate scroll through his Instagram feed.
Born in Honduras to Spanish parents, he’s been an artist since he was 20 years old. Beginning as a muralist and faux finisher, he’s worked with glass, wearable portrait miniatures and beading. Throughout his practice, he has gravitated towards natural and feminine motifs as a way to express his emotions.
“I started working on this painting from a frustrated mood,” he says about “I’m Still Here,” one of his most recent portraits. “I was outraged over the discrimination that was going on, not just here in the U.S., but all over the world.”
After exercising through a palette of pigments to match his mood, Badia Cabero came across a photo of Oxana, an albino model from Milan, Italy. Fascinated by her story – dealing with the cruelty of internet trolls and the like – and her awareness activism for albinos, he felt a connection to his frustrations. “I couldn’t help but paint her, I immediately felt her frustration with the human condition,” he said.
In “I’m Still Here,” Juan Carlos Badia Cabero populates the tableau
with his familiar themes as inspired by the strong resolve of his subject. Numerous flowers and plants surround her as a stylized, almost art deco lamp hangs behind her above an ominous square shape. Her blouse devolves from neo-epaulettes into an M.C. Escher-like active beehive – far from unsettling surrealism, she refocuses the painting beyond the sum of its parts.
“Her quiet energy is like a self-meditation energy and her beauty is unique,” he says. “I’ve used symbols in the painting that reinforce that and help tell her story.” The square represents the discrimination of “square-minded individuals” present in today’s society, the lamp’s cover prevents the light to shine on her but she’s still radiant and the beehive is a shield protecting her from society.
Creating the painting helped him navigate a tumultuous year, equipping him to face a world struggling to be better. Whatever tomorrow brings does not matter to him, he’s ready to take it one day at a time. “My obligation as an artist is to respond and interpret the world around me,” he said. “It’s our job – my job – as a creative individual.”