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Melissa Leandro is a Chicago based artist whose work draws us into her richly colorful and surreal landscapes, which explore personal, familial, and cultural experiences from her everyday life and family histories. In her lecture presentation she will discuss the roots of her many nostalgic and imagined symbols seen in her work, and how they are ingrained in her cultural identity.
By continuously absorbing the movements in familiar and foreign environments, Leandro layers her textiles through over dying, patching, mending, heavy embellishing, and bleaching to abstract the subtleties of particular places, people and memories. Her practice employs elements of collaged plastic tablecloths, plaster sculptures created by Leandro and her father, and uniquely upholstered furniture, among other techniques. Leandro will delve into the impact of her present day collecting of souvenirs, knick-knacks, and detritus, experiences of her mother working as a housekeeper in Miami; her grandparent’s home in Costa Rica; and her father’s livelihood as a construction worker and builder.
As her artwork has continued to evolve, she welcomes us to explore the narrative of each piece, as it brings together motifs and objects that are both sentimental and gaudy.
[Image description: Promotional poster with sage and white text on a maroon background. There is an image of a brightly colored textile with a close-up floral composition. Stylized flowers in magenta, peach and pink are embellished with neon green beads and plastic purple flowers.]
Melissa Leandro (b. 1989, Miami, FL) is an artist who works between the media of drawing, painting, and textiles, currently based in Chicago, IL. Leandro was awarded the Craft Fellowship Grant, from the Illinois Arts Council (2020), the Wingate Artist Fellowship from Vermont Studio Center Residency (2019). The Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship (2017) and the EAGER Grant for research and collaboration (2016, Shapiro Center), both for her studio work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). She was awarded the Luminarts Fellowship (2017) from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, Union League of Chicago. Leandro was a BOLT resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition for 2017-18, and was named one of Chicago's Break Out Artists of the year for 2018. Her studio work is featured in LUXE, Luxe Interiors + Design Magazine as part of their Chicago Style Maker edition (June 2018). Leandro has attended the Master Residency at The Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna beach, Florida; the Ragdale Residency at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, IL, the Jacquard Center Workshop, Research, design, & production in Hendersonville, North Carolina, the ACRE Residency in Wisconsin, the Roger Brown House Residency in Michigan, the Weaving Mill, Chicago and TextielLab, in The Netherlands. She has had recent solo exhibitions at The University Club of Chicago (Chicago, IL), Union League Club of Chicago (Chicago, IL), Rockford University (Rockford, IL) and the Wright Museum of Art (Beloit, WI). Leandro will have a solo exhibition with ANDREW RAFACZ Gallery (2020) and Frieze Art Fair NYC (2020+2021). Recent group exhibitions include DePaul Art Museum (Chicago, IL) and The Arts Club of Chicago (Chicago, IL). Leandro’s work can be found in public and private collections including the Federal Reserve of Chicago, BlueShield & BlueCross, Progressive Insurance, The Estée Lauder Companies, New York, Brown Legacy Group, Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Leandro is currently represented by Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago. She holds a BFA and MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and is currently teaching at the Art Institute as a Lecturer.