Glitter, vibrant colors and smiling faces are what comprise Luisa Leal’s first Las Vegas exhibit, Amazonian Beauties, which opened October 2 at Rachel’s Kitchen in the Ogden building Downtown. The artwork is eye-catching, inspired by the people and polychrome culture of Venezuela, where she grew up. “It helps me stay connected to my roots, to my country,” she says.
These 11 pieces depict women of the Wayúu and Yanomami tribes, and animals including a blue dart frog, a macaw, a snake and a toucan. Leal’s art contains colors and textures and real-life people she met doing volunteer work; the rainbow of colors she uses represent the kaleidoscopic landscape of Maracaibo, where buildings are painted in every shade.
While living there, Leal volunteered for Una Sola Voz por la Cultura Wayúu, a group of young adults helping the native Wayúu. She created promotional materials, presentations and newsletter designs. At the time, she was attending the Dr. Rafael Belloso Chacin University, at first studying engineering and then architecture for a “serious career.” She eventually switched to art, her true passion. “Being an art major in Venezuela was really tough, because people [there] are not used to buying art.”
Her love for a different kind of art inspired her to move stateside to pursue another dream: creating animated films. The 24-year-old moved to Las Vegas with her fiancé in 2014, and this past June, she accepted a three-month internship with Pixar in Emeryville, California, where she worked on art for upcoming films Cars 3 and Coco.
“From being around all of the artists painting all the time at Pixar, it made me want to paint more again,” she says. “I spent my entire summer surrounded by painters, and I’m now taking my acrylics more seriously than I did before.”
Although the pieces for Amazonian Beauties are digitalized, she first formed them by hand, using markers, paint, glitter and layered paper, and then added textures.
Leal will hold an artist reception on October 28 from 5 to 8 p.m. and she also plans to host drawing and sketching brunch sessions twice a month at Rachel’s Kitchen.
After her exhibition ends in four months, Leal wants to expand into more galleries here and in San Francisco. Her long-term goal is to create a feature-length movie with characters representative of Venezuela. Before that happens, she’s teaming with her artist-fiancé Eduardo Mantilla to make a short film about Friyawa, her favorite Amazonian Beauties character, with Mantilla producing the soundtrack.
“All of my dreams are here [in the US], and I just want to keep achieving them. My spirit is driven to do things,” Leal says. “Art is my life.”