Esquire (Singapore) - - CULTURE -

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.

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