Melissa Leandro (b. 1989, Miami) explores her composite cultural identity and family memories to create woven and embroidered surfaces. She generates imagery by reflecting on her commuting, walking, and gathering of small physical objects, as she navigates familiar and foreign environments. Leandro recalls memories of her childhood home in Miami, her family’s home country of Costa Rica, and considers how differing environments impact her understanding and fragmentation of identity and place.
Through multiple means of intuitive mark making, Leandro produces abstract drawings on paper, cyanotype prints, and paintings made with personal ephemera and everyday objects. By capturing the silhouette of mundane trinkets and mementos, these real world objects, gathered through travel and family exchange, are transformed into abstract representations that mimic topographical spaces, systems of map-making, and cultural remnants. These objects are natural or household items, (kids toys, domestic textiles, hardware, plastic flowers and fruits, jewelry, sea shells, pebbles, etc.). Once imprinted through drawn line or a cyanotype print, they evolve through multiple iterations of translation. Their form is woven, then stitched, embroidered, dip dyed or heat fused to make one blended substrate or object.
The process of heavy embroidery, wandering stitch work, applique, and immersive dye, are all contained within the grid structure of a Jacquard woven cloth. Leandro layers over the woven grid with slow paced stitched line, repeatedly stitching meandering paths in spirals, mountain and cloud-like forms. These fractured forms hint at specific cultural narratives of place. They resemble aerial views and topographical maps, but leave the viewer with no clear location of where the artist is referencing. With changes in weft yarn, Leandro creates brightly colored or neon bands on the woven plane that further splinter and interrupt the viewer’s perception of space and flatness. The viewer is slowed down in these bands of woven color and in the bleed of blue or fuchsia dye. These abrupt changes in dense imagery recall ideas of fragmentation and forgotten memories. When Leandro recalls past events, visual facts become blurred and an obvious distance develops between present and past moments. What was once very clear in her memory becomes submerged in assumptions. The dying process emphasizes the fragmentation of narrative; it is submerged, encapsulated or washed away. Leandro continually works to fill these voids of time with the use of recognizable patterns and drawn marks.