Juan G.: The Art of a Soul

Written by
Ms. Pamela Broussard, Case Manager

When you walk into the room of Juan G. at the Glass Factory, you have to wonder if you are entering an apartment or an art gallery. The walls are covered with paintings and the sills are crowded with sculptures. Juan is a self-taught artist, and his talent is amazing. Equally amazing is the man behind the art.

At 34 years old, Juan has been HIV positive for 14 years. He has a serious heart problem and takes dialysis treatments 3 times a week for a kidney problem. Both conditions are related to medications taken to treat HIV. He has been at death’s door three times, and each time his spirit has gained the strength when his body could not. He has a past wrought with involvements in abusive relationships, deception and emotional pain.

But the first thing you notice about him is a certain gentleness and a peace that can only come through triumph of spirit. Juan speaks with a quietness behind an inviting smile and flows through his life as naturally as water in a stream. He is a man with strong convictions and beliefs, and a boldness for expressing what he feels about the treatment of people infected with HIV/AIDS. He knows of what he speaks because he has lived it.

Although Juan has been handed a series of challenges in his life, any one enough to bow the strongest of us, he does not drown himself in self-pity. Instead he has chosen to focus on what is good in his life, and the wonder of each moment in his waking day.

Juan uses his artistic talents to express what he feels, what he has experienced, and what he has learned about life. Each piece he creates captures some aspect of who he is emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They are an extension of his life and the pain and beauty he feels in it. They capture what he sees and what he feels about living with HIV/AIDS. The messages are carried from his heart to the canvas.

When you view his art, there are recurring themes. He likes to paint arms because he believes they are very important. As he puts it, “They are what we use to carry our groceries; to lift our hands to say hello; to embrace; to hold a baby; to reach out to others. They are the most inviting aspect of ourselves.” Also prevalent is a “third eye”, symbolizing his ability to see beyond his boundaries and beyond the teachings of others since childhood.

With all of the health issues that confront Juan each waking moment, he says he still feels lucky. He thinks of himself as a walking miracle, and is grateful for what he considers to be the many gifts given him in his life.

Juan was recently accepted to participate in the Visual AIDS project, a program created to increase public awareness of AIDS through the visual arts using partnerships with artists, galleries, museums and AIDS organizations. Juan will have an opening to showcase his artwork later this year. We’ll keep you posted.