Former Argentinean artist transforms wine boxes into masterpieces in SRB

Jessica Coker | The Walton Sun
Brooke Gontarek and her artist husband, Juan Francisco Adaro, who was recently chosen as one of three winners of the "Award of Excellence," during Mattie Kelly's 17th annual Festival of the Arts held at Henderson Beach State Park.

Twelve years ago, when Niceville-native Brooke Gontarek went to a street fair in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she left with amazing memories and two huge paintings by Argentinian street artist Juan Francisco Adaro.

Gontarek, who didn’t speak Spanish at the time of their first meeting, was accompanied by a translator. They came upon Adaro at a street fair, and even though Adaro spoke passable English, the translator told him not to speak it so that it appeared like he was "doing his job."

Nine years later when Gontarek returned to Buenos Aires to study wine and teach English, the two reconnected.

“Somehow we ended up spending that night out dancing the tango … we were engaged within two weeks,” Gontarek said.

“Instead of taking home art, she took home the artist," added Adaro.

The newlyweds moved to Santa Rosa Beach where Gontarek got back to work as a wine sommelier, and Adaro settled into his new country and life, creating his unique works of art.

The couple found a way to tie their love of wine and art together when Gontarek began bringing home wooden wine boxes for Adaro to use as his canvas.

"They are kind of too nice to throw away . . . but how useful are 70 or so wooden boxes?" asked Gontarek, who is the general manager and wine expert at Vue on 30A.  "Fran found them and started cutting them up for art so now the empty boxes have found good, beautiful uses."

Adaro begins by cutting the massive wine box to a shape that suits him; then he begins painting in a technique that he developed called "controlled accident," — a fast way of painting without thinking, that utilizes any accidents as texture or intentional design.

He paints on other mediums as well — walls, cars, newspaper, tin and even the human body.

Adaro said everything about life inspires him and his art.

“I’m inspired by music, silence, nature, dance, everyday life, diversity, human beings, cities, travel, and the ocean. I don’t think you can become an artist, it’s just who you are.”

Adaro began his career as a street artist in San Telmo, a tourist area of Buenos Aires. It was a fast-paced lifestyle spent dodging law enforcement officials, who were cracking down on street peddlers.

“I worked in the streets with my mobile art gallery, which was a tricycle with a box on the back where I would show and sell my art; I would also speed paint and do portraits. Everyday I was on a different corner, street, museum, train station terminal or hotel — it was an interesting experience and the police didn’t know how to find me.”

Since then Adaro has spent the last 18 years creating art around the world.

"I wouldn't say I've been all over the world, but art has definitely been my passport, and I've always been interested in knowing other cultures and geographies — I love diversity," said Adaro,

Now he is settling down in the U.S., though The Sun interviewed him by email, while he was spending time in San Telmo working on his art and spending time with the more than 50 members of his extended family.

The key to art, and life in general, according to Adaro, is being open to the world and everything it has to offer.

"I don't try to reproduce nature — art is nature," said Adaro. "Beauty is here, we just have to let it happen, not get in its way, whether it’s a person, a landscape or some magical color combination."

Gontarek tells The Sun that her husband is the definition of a true artist.

"He is his artwork and his artwork is him; you can't really pull the two apart."

For more information about Adaro and his art please visit