RAÚL DE NIEVES Artist, 34
The Transformer An artist can find their inspiration anywhere. Raúl de Nieves found his in a pair of heels. “I thought it would be funny to wear them to a punk show. People called me grandma, but it also made me more approachable because it started a conversation,” he says. He then started incorporating them into his artwork—covering the shoes with cheap plastic beads until they took on their own organic shapes. “I’m morphing these everyday objects into something more magical,” de Nieves says.
The artist grew up in Michoacán, Mexico, a place he describes as a “huge artisan community” where craft truly was an everyday practice. He immigrated to San Diego at nine, and as an adult skipped art school, saving the money and teaching himself. He developed a wide-ranging practice rooted in sculpture and performance art.
In 2017, his reputation spiked with his inclusion in the Whitney Biennial. There he created a 12M stainedglass installation flanked by elaborately costumed figures and beaded sculptures. Innovative as ever, de Nieves crafted his ‘stained glass’ out of tape and coloured paper. The finished product was packed with imagery by turns sacred, celebratory and surreal.
These days, de Nieves wears more sneakers than party pumps—you need sensible shoes to travel. In September, he has shows in Los Angeles and Paris, and he’s making plans for even bigger projects. “Working on that scale pushed me not to have limits,” he says of the Whitney show. “I made that stained-glass window by myself in a basement with no natural sunlight. I believed that it would work and it did. And it was beautiful.”
Coat, vest and shirt by Versace; jewellery,de Nieves’s own.