Rebecca Leveille grew up on comic books. She is completely self-taught and is just as inspired by “X-Men” and “Star Wars” as she is from the works of Klimt and Wyeth.
Now an established name in art, Leveille (AKA Rebecca Guay) has been a part of some of the most beloved projects in nerdy art. She illustrated comic books, including Neil Gaiman’s cult series “Sandman.” She designed characters and monsters for Dungeons and Dragons. She designed some of the art that is featured on the popular card game Magic: The Gathering. She is so well-liked, in fact, that when Leveille went on a trip to Japan, an event was thrown in her name with over a thousand attendees.
In 2011, to general disappointment, she quit that sphere of art for another. Romantic, 19th-century-inspired portraiture isn’t what one might expect of an artist who built her name painting threatening merfolk and human-faced flowers vomiting spores, but that is where she makes her home now.
Now 47, Leveille’s first show of her own is on display in New York City. The new exhibition, featured at Site:Brooklyn, is called “Crush.” It features large-scale paintings with a Van Gogh-esque painting style. Bright colors and visible brush strokes shaping portraits. Some are her family and her friends, but also featured are pop-culture icons. Real celebrities, like ballet heart-throb Sergei Polunin, and fictional ones like Leia Skywalker and Han Solo.
“I learned so much,” said Leveille of her history in illustration. “You have to be able to do everything, draw every part of the body from every angle, and translate someone else’s vision or story.”
And her portraits do paint stories. Most of them meet the eyes of the viewer, speaking directly off the canvas. Those that don’t have something of their own to say. And of course, you can’t be a part of New York’s art life this year without a dig at our current President.
“Crush” will be on site at Site:Brooklyn through April 30th.