Art was his Salvation

Juan Francisco Vera: Art was a form of Salvation
by María Cabeza

Doing something manually is absolutely rewarding, it is heathy for your soul to know that you built something. – Araceli Pourcel

What was your first approach with art? – Since I was very young, I adored drawing and it was a way of expression to say all the good and all the bad things that were happening to Juan as a child, to Juan as a teenager and to the adult and, now, to the mature Juan. Art, if I look back, has always been a form of salvation.

Was it difficult to make something as different as shoe lasts? – It was a great challenge, it involved finding myself with a blank canvas. It led me to be in front of the rough wooden shoe last that had to be cleaned -because it was in a state of significant deterioration- and start playing; everything I do is playful. It is the moment in which I feel like a child, reality disappears and I go to a world in which I really like to be, which is disconnecting from everyday life and immersing myself in creativity, which is what leads you to connect to good places.

Tell me about that job in which you “dressed” the shoe lasts and even gave them a name – I was working as an office employee in a company and I needed to express myself through art. I remember that there were painted shoe lasts already made so I began to give them color and, from there, I said to myself: “I must do something else”

I began to play with pieces of stuff that I had: stones, old jewelry, braid, the tassel… Based on those materials I was making what was that unique piece. I also went to flea markets a lot and it was fun to find out-of-the-ordinary stuff. The dressed shoe lasts were a great success in my life; you only have to give a glance to the many publications where I was mentioned. I explored the female world a lot too.

You take your time to re-create, right? – Every creative process takes time. It’s not like my old office job where I would do my set tasks and close the office and leave. Creativity comes and goes. The muses are not always on your side.

Was it at that time that you decided to go live in New York? – The NYC thing was completely fortuitous. I was traveling as a tourist, I met someone and that led to moving to New York. It is a fascinating city and at the same time it is very hard to live in. To me, it was one of the hardest things I have experienced in my whole life. It’s very big, people come here to make money. One thing is the day to day and another is to come as a visitor. According to my experience, it is not a place that I would recommend to live unless you have a challenge, a goal to achieve. On the other hand, it offers you a lot of opportunities, regardless all the things that involve art. Besides, there is a super population of artists. Standing out is extremely difficult, there is a lot of talent from all over the world. It is a very competitive city and you have to know how to move.

How do you get along with yourself? – Getting along with one at 52 is quite an issue. I have lived with Juan, the artist, with my family for 52 years, I am a foreigner in a country that has another culture and another language. I confess I get along with myself. With clear aims, one can transform those days that do not start so good, to ones which, at the end of the day, make you say “I did it, I did it”.

You started designing necklaces: what material are they made of? Is it your first time with accessories? – I want to emphasize that there is nothing new; everything is transformed, returns. It’s repetitive. You have to give that piece of art that already exists, a personal touch. I gave away a couple of necklaces that a person made and after that I thought of recreating them with my imprint. I took a course with the great Araceli Pourcel- by zoom- during full lockdown and then I took one in person. She is one of the most generous artists I have ever met, super friendly, deeply homely- she explains things to you as they are. Simple.

Afterwards, I began working with everything that is rubber. It is an element that I love, I had fun sublimating it. Now I’m doing it raw. I repeat “There is nothing new under the sun, just give it a personal twist.”

What is to be happy? – At my age it is a pinch of moments that life gives you. There are more moments of lethargy than those of deep sadness or happiness. Happiness is playing with a dog, loving someone and being reciprocated, doing what you like. I wonder: “Does that always happen?” It is a question that I am going to take with me to the grave. An enigma that I will not be able to solve.

You have many friends, right? – Friends are sometimes strangers – he asks me to quote a song by La Portuaria that says exactly that. (

Friends is a weird tale. Friendship is a moment that you share in life; there is nothing like an eternal friend, the eternal love, nothing is forever in this life. Everything is cyclical. Yes, I can say -as our parents used to say- that “I have too many fingers on my hand” to count my friends.

At present, friendship is a treasure. We live in a violent world; it is also a time of great loneliness. I do not want to leave out the Internet too. On the one hand it is a great tool to facilitate things -for example to sell stuff through the net- but, on the other hand, it led to deteriorating human relationships.

Now, listen, when you feel “at home” with a friend, it’s the greatest blessing one can have. And I will continue betting on that.

María V Cabeza is an Argentinian writer- translator- publicist. She loves Writing and enjoys the Sea, the Arts, Animals and Freedom.


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