Painters Jade Leyva and Cheri Vilona premiere some of their latest work in an exhibit opening on July 6 at Mill Contemporary.
“I’ve never shown this particular body of work before,” explains Leyva, who was born in Mexico City and calls Placitas, New Mexico home. “Many of the images in these paintings are based in my childhood and out of my imagination.”
Leyva describes her style as “magical realism.” Paintings are filled with imaginary people (some of whom remind her of friends and family members), birds and flowers. Leyva loves bees, which have been included in her paintings during the past several years. “These creatures are so beautiful,” she says. “Their wings are like lace.”
Ripe watermelons are also featured in some of Leyva’s paintings. “I grew watermelons when I was little,” she recalls. “They were an integral part of my childhood.”
At the heart of Leyva’s art is the goal to communicate beauty, the importance of human connections and an understanding of native cultures.
“My mother was half Irish and half Mexican,” she adds. “She was in touch with her indigenous side. During my childhood, I spent time visiting archaeological and cultural sites in Mexico and Central America and enjoyed close contact with the native people of southern Mexico. All these connections have influenced my current work.”
A resident of New Mexico since 2006, Leyva has been commissioned to create pieces for major New Mexico cultural events, including Globalquerque and the New Mexico Wine Festival.
Vilona, who has lived on both coasts and is a resident of Colorado, is passionate about painting landscapes. She’s interested in the dynamic interplay of line, shape and color. Her medium is primarily oil, but she also enjoys using oil pastels, oil stick, carbon and inks in her recent abstract works.
Vilona says her artistic goal is to create an abstracted view and sense of place, both visited and imagined, within her paintings.