Juan Alvear’s nail art is so much more than that. A graduate of Cooper Union, where he studied sculpting and painting, Alvear’s nails are unique, if grotesque, hybrid or sorts — situated at a crossroads between performance art, sculpture, and cosmetics.
Drawing from his painting and sculpture background, Alvear began experimenting with nail art during his junior year at Cooper Union. “To be honest I don’t really separate the nails I make from the art I make,” he admitted in an interview with W Magazine. “They are all an extension of me and the nails function almost like a series in a larger body of work.”
According to him, without his sculpture and painting background, the nails would look drastically different, and most probably, wouldn’t even exist. But luckily enough, his signature style came to be, attracting clients as huge as Rihanna and Erykah Badu, as well as rapper Rico Nasty and flamenco pop singer Rosalía.
Describing his style as eccentric, experimental, and optimistic, his creations can take up to 10 hours. “I can’t help but be attracted to shapes that look juicy,” says Alvear. “I can’t say there’s one place I look to for color inspiration but I know it when I see it. I don’t necessarily search for color schemes but rather remember them, take a photo of them, or bookmark them when I do come across one that I like IRL, or online.”
“I see a huge relationship formally between my paintings and my nails and they definitely inspire/inform one another,” he admits. “I see colors and textures and put them together to create something. I see both my nail sculptures and my paintings as ornaments of sorts: one exists to decorate the hand and the other for space.”
Take a look at some of his sculptural nail art: