It is impossible to avoid relating the creative work of Juan Travieso to his culture, his early years spent on the island of Cuba, his personal experiences during the communist era and his family relationships. When viewing one of his graphic creations, one or more of these references will inevitably be present. It is his personal hallmark and the circumstance that identifies his work. “My work is a compendium of many influences and styles. I experiment with a number of creative forms that are mixed together to achieve what I do. I don’t know if this style has a specific name,” he says.

On second viewing, when you look more carefully and delve into the subject matter of his pieces, you are also aware that there are circumstances that are of great concern to him, and form a repeated part of his creative process. We can see this in his series on birds, or in his approach to the problem of fauna in danger of extinction. “My tone is political and dark, and hidden in the form of warm colours. My pieces deal with animals on the brink of extinction, but also social and political problems,” he says.

However, what really calls attention to his work are the complex compositions, in which he blends the geometric world with realism. Pieces with every kind of format, with human and animal figures spliced into unreal worlds. “Personally, as a creator, I like to play with new possibilities. I think it is my duty to bring new forms and combinations to what I do. To me, fragmenting or “destroying” an image is a way of achieving a new vision. It’s my way of adding something new to the art world and to call attention to specific facts,” says the artist.

And then there is the colour of his work – a chromatic jolt which, in his words, is more related to the ideas than to Caribbean culture itself. “People are drawn to the beauty of the composition due to its colours, rather than for the possible messages that may lie beneath each work. In any case, colour is an essential part of my work,” says Juan.

“My tone is political and dark, and hidden in the form of warm colours. My pieces deal with animals on the brink of extinction, but also social and political problems”, he says.

In his studio in Miami, the city to which he moved following a year in Boston, Juan also has a number of great friends and collaborators; friends who are very critical of his work and greatly influence his pieces. However, if there’s anyone who has been truly instrumental in his development as an artist, it’s his parents and his two sisters. “My father was my first major influence. He made drawings for me, and I’d cut out these drawings to play with them. Those cut-outs were my first dolls. He was always making me toys out of materials he found,” he says.

Juan Travieso at his work office.
Acrylic and gouache work on paper "Our Hands are Tainted".

And his evolution continues, in spite of any mistakes that may arise along the way. Mistakes from which he always learns, and which serve to refine his work in the future. “At the moment my work is undergoing a period of great complexity, but at any time I can always take a step back in the process and try for something a little simpler,” he says.

Fotos: Juan Travieso/Jenn Singer Gallery

The Tyger collab between Miguel Machado and Juan Travieso Gainsville, Florida.

This article is also available in Español