Juan Alvear treats the human nail as his canvas, which makes sense judging by his artistic background. Based in New York, Alvear studied sculpting and painting at Cooper Union before launching his now-viral Instagram account “Nails by Juan”. According to the celebrity nail artist, he began experimenting with nails during his junior year, treating it as a continuation of his painting and sculptures.
His wacky creations haven’t gone unnoticed. Indeed, with most of his nails long, sharp, and strangely shaped, it’s impossible not to notice them. His bold designs have been seen across the fashion industry, and celebrities as big as Lil Nas X, Rihanna, and Erykah Badu have sported his work at one point at a time. His nail art has also featured in music videos of artists like Rosalía, Arca, and Charli XCX. In other words, he’s kind of a big deal.
“Every design is different and serves different purposes,” Alvear explained in an interview with Coeval Magazine, “because there isn’t a single objective I can’t say I have one favorite.”
According to Alvear, while he’s known for his bold nail art, in some cases his most cherished experiences have come from simpler nails. “For example, the nails I did on Lil Nas X for the VMAs, which was a surreal experience in itself.”
Inspiration for his work comes from a variety of sources. “I like pushing the boundaries of what is expected and what can be seen as beautiful,” he notes. “It’s a balancing act of the two. My nail practice is meant to be surreal and uncanny because it usually diverges from functional and leans into performative. I draw inspiration from color, form, texture, and how these things meet.”
According to Alvear, his work goes out of its way to ask “but what if…”. This often leads him to create something that has never been imagined before. “The real motive behind my work is to give a new, fantastical point of view,” he says. Hate it or love it, you can help but admire his ingenuity.