Artist Orlando Leyba finds reviving and embellishing older work ‘cathartic’

Nov.18 – Orlando Leyba reclaims his Chimayó childhood, the fields he plowed with his grandfather and his travels to the tiny Spanish town that gave him a surname.

The artist’s work can be seen in Reclaimed: Orlando Leyba through December 2nd at The Curated Creative.

The Albuquerque Academy art teacher, abstraction meets northern New Mexico, beauty and decay, evolved as he painted over his work like his idol, California painter Richard Diebenkorn.

Leyba began his time at the University of New Mexico majoring in architecture before surrendering to the inevitable.

“I think I always knew I was going to be an artist,” he said. “My high school didn’t have any art program. All I did was draw in my notebooks day and night.”

He completed his graduate work at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, where all of his teachers were from New York. The East Coast gave him a much broader experience than he found at UNM.

“I learned that you can paint with tar,” he said. “I learned that you can use found objects. This has opened many doors for me to explore.

“It was very competitive,” he continued. “If your work sucked, people told you. I tried to take it easy and not take it personally and learn from it.”

His current exhibition shows paintings from the years 1995 to 2022.

“I revised and reassembled the older ones,” said Leyba. “They range thematically from an exploration of the history of land grants in New Mexico to the history of labor in Chimayó to contemporary abstraction.”

Her bold lines and angles represent the separation Leyba has long felt as a Hispanic in an Anglo world.

“I grew up in a Hispanic household, but my parents raised me to be one of the regular Anglo kids in my high school. But I went to my grandparents and they only spoke Spanish.

“It’s the beauty of the light I see here compared to the decay I see in the arroyos. It’s about raising mixed race kids.”

Supported by a bird’s wingspan, “Chimitico” refers to a Tewa thunderbird found as a motif on many Rio Grande weaves.

“Chimayó was also spelled ‘T’smayo’ in Tewa,” he said.

As beautiful as it looks, this weaving hid some darker issues.

“Two weeks before going to school, my grandmother’s parents told her to stay home and weave to support the family,” Leyba said. “People tell me that Chimayó is so beautiful,” he added. “But if you live there, you know it’s ravaged by heroin.”

Leyba’s oil and diamond dust on the record “Garcilaso” was created on his trip to Spain.

“I discovered that there is a town with my last name,” he said. “The red represents the poppy fields I drove through to get to this little town. The pink below is a reflection of the petroglyphs.”

“King Solomon’s Double Wide” was created as a painting by his son Solomon.

“It’s the idea that King Solomon lives in a double-wide in New Mexico,” Leyba said. “It’s just my imagination and trying to have a sense of humor.”

He enjoys reviving and beautifying his older work.

“First, they bore me,” he said. “It’s so cathartic to do that. I feel like I have a base, a foundation to start with, but I can choose to include a land grant or my story.”

The reclaimed works hang alongside Leyba’s paintings from 2022. Each series connects through a familiar landscape of beauty intertwined with chaos and dysfunction, traditions and contemporary practices, the eroded and the new.

“Reclaimed: Orlando Leyba”

WHERE: The Curated Creative, 7401 Menaul Blvd. NE, Suite H

WHEN: By December 2nd

CONTACT:, 505-850-2307