Written Words Hide In A Miami Beach Painter’s Works


johanna boccardo paints in her studio

Miami Beach artist Johanna Boccardo uses colored pencils and paint to create geometric works on paper.

Painted lines of bright pastels fill the canvases of Miami Beach artist Johanna Boccardo, presenting a chromatic expression of geometry and angles. The works appear so measured and exact, it’s assumed a perfectionist attitude must be behind each creation. Yet a closer glance exposes words scribbled, seemingly haphazardly, against the rigid lines, disrupting the precision.

The intentionally cloaked messages are a hint of the artist’s personality and mindset, revealed through her craft. “My upbringing informed my art as far as my interest in exploring inner worlds and what’s inside of me,” she says. “The way I decide to paint is just the tool and the technique I found to express myself.”

“Color is so powerful,” Boccardo says. “It’s so seductive. It persuades you on such a subconscious level that it can enhance and change the energy of the space.”

art studio with white walls and colorful paintings

The artist's studio is in a 1950s building in Miami Beach.

colored pencils in a cup

Colored pencils help bring her creations to life.

colorful painting by johanna boccardo

Scattered amid the vibrant lines are words and phrases meaningful to her life at the moment.

johanna boccardo pulls paintings out of a drawer

The works are on handmade handmade cotton paper imported from overseas.

Born in Ciudad Bolívar, a small town in Venezuela, and raised in Caracas, Boccardo grew up exposed to works by masters of geometric art, such as Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto, a family friend born in the same town. Their creations would later inspire her own, just as the vibrant natural colors of the tropical country would also play a role. In particular, hours spent catching butterflies and telling stories in her paternal grandparents’ lush property fueled her imagination. “My grandfather had a huge garden,” she recalls. “It would be filled with peacocks and sloths all around the trees. He had some corn planted, fish tanks and fountains—it was so magical. Seeing that with children’s eyes makes it become so much more than what it was.”

As an adult, Boccardo used her 2002 fine arts degree from the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota to launch her career as a freelance illustrator in the publishing industry, landing in Miami in 2004. Two years later, she also began making pieces for herself, exploring color lines with paint. “Illustration and painting are similar—it’s like playing with different toys and creating with different tools,” the artist says. “They’re in the same neighborhood. I just walk around the neighborhood and start exploring something that pops up.” Her color studies soon became more complex, with layers, geometric shapes and, as she puts it, “soul.” They also grew larger, extending to the 40- by 60-inch sizes Boccardo produces today. By 2010, she made the jump to establish herself as a full-time artist.

Boccardo’s creations are rendered on handmade cotton paper imported from countries like India, Spain, France and Italy. Working in her light-filled 1950s Miami Beach studio, she starts by laying out geometric structures in neon-colored pencils, then adds washes of inks, watercolor and acrylic paint. “Color is so powerful,” the artist says. “It’s so seductive. It persuades you in such a subconscious level that it can enhance and change the energy of the space.” When the foundation is complete, she writes notes in permanent marker that convey her life at the moment—such as themes from the science and astronomy podcasts she’s listening to or the plan for her patio landscape design.

But the musings are soon buried. Boccardo applies acrylic paint over the sentences to give each piece a purpose of discovering everything she has recorded, an act of privacy she views as adding value to her words. “You hold a lot of power when you keep things to yourself,” she says. “I see myself as not opening the front door of my house, but you can peek through the windows.”

The artist’s recent works are inspired by her daily practice of transcendental meditation, with a series consisting of four paintings, each based on an element: air, fire, water and earth. “I’ve been reading a lot of esoteric textbooks, mixing that with meditation, exploring properties of elements and minerals and getting a lot of color inspiration from crystals,” she says. In June, Boccardo’s work went on display in Miami Beach’s Monad Terrace, broadening her reach beyond her current audience—half of whom are private collectors, the other half interior designers and architects.

With every piece she creates containing her inner monologue, Boccardo’s goal is to build a legacy of mystery. “The work reveals itself very, very slowly,” she says. “It’s not work you see and know what it’s about. It takes time for you to explore it.”