The art of swimming naked
We caught up with artist Jean Carlos Puerto to talk about the stories behind his stunning images.
You’ve written that you’ve been drawing and painting since a young age, but it wasn’t until your early 30s when you took painting classes that things got serious for you. Do you regret not taking those classes sooner?
Sometimes I think that when I was choosing my university career, I wonder what would have happened if I’d decided to do Fine Arts instead. In that moment, I decided to study Psychology but I remember that it was a very difficult decision for me – Fine Arts was a real alternative option.
Ultimately, if I wanted to study Fine Arts I would have had to move to Valencia, which I didn’t want to do, so I chose Psychology.
On the other hand, I think I wouldn’t be the same painter if I hadn’t studied Psychology. It would have been great to start sooner, but it’s never too late to express yourself.
How does your background in psychology inform your painting?
I worked as a psychologist for almost 10 years before I started painting professionally. I’m still working as a psychologist, but only once a week with a Family Therapy Centre.
All my paintings talk about humans and relationships. In particular, the paintings in the Psyche series have a clear psychology background. It’s my world and I have to show it that way.
Your series of images of men under water are stunning – what’s the creative process that you follow to create these?
It’s obvious that I use photography to inspire my paintings. Life painting of men underwater would be a bit difficult!
Everything started when I saw a photo of a man underwater, and wondered how it would be if I painted it. So I tried, and I was very happy with the result.
After that, I wanted to take my own pictures. So, I bought a cheap underwater camera and started experimenting with myself as a model. The ideas and feelings that are behind the work have to do with solitude and loneliness – it’s the closest feeling you can get of being inside your mother’s womb.
How do you find your models for these underwater images?
I started with myself as the model, because it’s not easy to explain to others what I want in the photo. But, little by little, I’ve been finding some models on Instagram that have wanted to do a naked underwater photo session.
Where is your favourite place to swim?
My favourite place to swim, and to take pictures also, is Ibiza and Formentera. These islands are wonderful — their waters are extremely clear and you can find huge variations of blues. I prefer the sea, not the beach, because the water is clearer. Each summer, I get on board a boat and navigate around the Ibiza and Formentera coast, looking for the best waters.
I love swimming naked. I don’t understand using swimsuits. I don’t like the sensation of wet swimsuits. Being naked is the only way to be free.
You were born in Venezuela – is the current uncertainty there impacting you at all?
It’s a long time since I’ve been back, but I still have family there — it’s a very distressing situation. My family tell me each day the problems they have to find food, even if you have money for it.
Venezuela isn’t a safe place to visit. My family will be moving from there.
What are some of your goals and ambitions for the months ahead?
For me, it’s a dream to grow as an artist and show my work in cities like Madrid, Berlin, Los Angeles, or New York. I want my work to be represented by the best galleries and the best museums. Hopefully, one day, that dream will come true.