Colombian artist paints portraits in honor of healthcare heroes in the frontlines of the pandemic

He hopes to inspire those who look at his paintings

DR. PHILLIPS, Fla. – Nelson Cárdenas’ artwork tells the stories of multiple healthcare workers in the frontlines of the pandemic.

The pieces illustrate the impact and sacrifice during the last year and a half.

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“Sometimes the best work comes out when you’re in pain,” Cárdenas said.

Cárdenas’ artwork is something he does on the side, he’s actually a prep cook at Orlando Health Dr. Phillips Hospital. He’s been there for seven years.

“I had to see their faces and their eyes and I had to spend a lot of time looking at their eyes. So they became my friends,” Cárdenas said.

Some of Cárdenas’ pieces hang on the walls where doctors and nurses pass by every day.

He even donated six paintings to the Orange County Regional History Center in Downtown Orlando.

“If I can inspire somebody to gain a little bit of strength and feel a little better that day, just by looking at the paintings because they were right there in your face,” he said.

Cárdenas migrated from Colombia back in 1986. He and his mom escaped the drug cartel at the time and the goal was to reach the American dream, which is why they crossed the border.

“My mom and I had no idea what people were saying we didn’t speak a word of English and we just took a plane somehow from there to Boston and the rest was history,” he said.

Cárdenas said he’s thankful for the opportunities he’s received throughout the last three decades and he has a message for those who are chasing their dreams.

“In Colombia we say: Pa delante como elefante” (Move forward like an elephant) because elephants keep going without fear,” he said.

About the Author:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!