Swirling, intricate butterflies are Naples artist Juan Carlos Collada’s trademark, but he hopes his abstract-minimalist paintings and sculptures will represent something of a career metamorphosis.
Butterflies have consumed his life since 2015, when his husband, interior designer Jeffrey Fisher, needed art for a 1,000-square-foot foyer. Collada had just sold a butterfly work to Fisher’s sister and Fisher asked him to create a massive piece.
“Flight of the Butterflies,” seven 60-by-20-inch panels, was featured in a magazine ad that caught the eye of Nancy Winch, owner of Gardner Colby Gallery in Old Naples. “I just stopped in my tracks when I saw this incredible display,” Winch says. “I’d never seen anything like it. It was spectacular.”
She immediately called Collada, asking to represent him. A show followed two years later. “I’ve got people asking to represent me all over the world and I can’t do it,” says Collada, whose art is shown in 12 galleries, including British Columbia, Las Vegas, Dallas, Boston, Chicago and Santa Fe.
Miami-born Collada studied painting and printmaking at Miami Dade College. He turned down a scholarship to New World School of the Arts to become director of the college’s art museums, after being assistant director. He later worked as a fashion stylist in Miami for catalogs and magazines such as Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily, a lighting designer in North Carolina, a furniture designer in San Francisco and a textile designer in Milan. Six years ago, he and Fisher, who split their time between Toronto and Naples, made Naples their home.
The walls of a studio where Collada creates butterfly canvases are lined with drawers of feathers and butterflies and drawings of commissioned works. He has so many, he extended deadlines to 10-12 weeks. “I get commissions for whatever comes out of my head, or to match a couch, a headboard or a room. Some people say, ‘Do whatever makes you think of me,’” he says.
Collada creates butterflies from goose and turkey feathers. He designs some that arrive pre-stamped and dyes and paints others. He nails the foam bodies onto linen-covered fiberboard, sprays the piece with UV-protectant and covers it with an acrylic case.
He’s assembled art using seashells, coral, sand dollars and starfish, but because those materials are expensive, that’s only by commission.
With so much going on, he turned to Transcendental Meditation for calm and focus. “That changed my life,” he says. “I get more inspired through meditation in one day than in months of living. There’s never a lack of inspiration when I meditate.”
Inspirations include Isamu Noguchi, Jean Arp, Alexander Calder and Ellsworth Kelly. In September, his painting studio was completed near his pool, next to a large shade tree where he sculpts marble.
“This is my dream come true,” he says, surrounded by canvases in varying states of completion. “With all the construction issues, it was like birthing a child.”
Collada hopes to devote time to paintings—at least four galleries are interested in his results—and sculptures. He wants to spend his days creating art, traveling and spending time with his husband and their two Chihuahua-mutt rescues. “I’m trying to transition into painting, but I don’t know if I will ever stop my butterflies,” he says. “They’re my bread and butter.”