Melissa Leandro
In an attempt to return to the tranquility of more pastoral ways found in my familial country Costa Rica, I recollect childhood memories, family histories and domestic objects. I create an inventory of symbols connected to these memories based on abstract structures, systems of map making, topography, and landmark images. These symbols coalesce throughout my practice of painting, drawing and textiles.

As a bilingual Latina woman, language is an important part of my practice. Traveling abroad from a young age exposed me to two dramatically different cultures: the U.S. and Costa Rica. Having grown up in Miami, Florida, Spanglish is very much real, and plays a large role in how I navigate a hybrid vocabulary in my work, both with and without words. To parallel the disparity of English and Spanish, I intuitively overlay contrasting materials, like birthday balloons and dyed cotton, and find unlikely combinations. I weave before I melt, then stitch and dye, followed by techniques of cutting and stitching. When I am hand-weaving materials such as plastic, rubber, felt, paper, and foam, these woven strips are fused together through heat, allowing me to machine stitch over a cooled and rigid surface. The final step is to cut away fragments of the top layers, exposing the multiple stages of the weaving.

Similarly, I heat transfer painted dyes onto paper, then transfer the color onto fabric or other synthetic materials to create large-scale paintings. I machine stitch over the dye transfer paintings with sewing thread, changing color every few inches. Repetitive stitching moving in multiple directions emphasizes the layering of materials and process. The results are fictitious landscapes that lead me out of my current urban reality, and form a means of escape to an imagined world that harkens back to the idylls of my childhood.

At the heart of my practice is a relationship between old world techniques and new world technology. For example, I convert a 4”x6” pen drawing into a digital file composed of weave patterns for each color and line type. Once woven on the Jacquard loom, the drawing morphs into a tapestry. As one that experiences language as the warp and weft of a mixed culture, I counter cultural expectations, female histories and traditional “woman’s work”.