New art exhibit opens in Weber Fine Arts Gallery


Sara Meadows

The exhibit’s titular “behind the fields”. Photo courtesy of Melissa Leandro.

A new art exhibit “Behind the Fields” by Melissa Leandro will open on Oct. 8 in the Weber Fine Arts Gallery and will be on display until Nov. 11.

Melissa Leandro, originally from Miami, FL, pursued her passion for art over ten years ago when she decided to move to Chicago and attend School of the Art Institute of Chicago. At first, Leandro thought she wanted to pursue photography as a career, but quickly changed her mind when she discovered weaving.

“I learned floral weaving when I was in undergrad, and really fell in love with textiles,” says Leandro.

Leandro enjoys creating bright and vivid wall works. She often depicts natural landscapes like flora and fauna, but in the realm of the unreal with a fictional feel to them. Her examples include enlarged flowers and enlarged fish faces, as well as celestial orbs floating around where there is no pinpointed location, or even an exact representational image in the work.

“I definitely work between abstraction and representational icons,” says Leandro.

“Double Fish Face” — abstraction or representation? Photo courtesy of Melissa Leandro.

She often uses her experiences through traveling for inspiration — she notes that one doesn’t necessarily have to travel very far. Sometimes she simply drives to a nature preserve, or walks around the area of her local neighborhood. These things really inspire her. She lives in a heavily Puerto Rican neighborhood and often sees certain plants and fixtures on the lawns that will occasionally make an appearance in her artwork.

“I hope that when people look at my work, they notice something else, something different,” says Leandro.

Leandro’s family is Costa Rican. Her parents immigrated to the United States, which has been a big inspiration for her as she reflects on what it was like traveling back and forth from Costa Rica to Miami. She often remembers the landscapes she would see in Costa Rica — tropical, lush and rural — an inspiration visible in a lot of her work.

“I’m really interested in recreating those beautiful moments of what I remember from Costa Rica and Miami,” says Leandro.

Leandro stays busy as she continues to live and work in Chicago. She is currently a part-time faculty member at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She takes on many roles there, giving lectures as well as working as the facility’s director for the fiber material studies department.

“All of that dabbling I needed to do in my day job really impacted all of the layering that is going on in my artwork,” says Leandro.

Leandro is represented by the Andrew Rafacz Gallery, where you can find and purchase her work. Find more information on her website.

The opening for the exhibit will be held in the Weber Fine Arts Gallery on Oct. 8 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.