“My grandmother called me Leonina before anyone else. Before I even knew what Trans is and identified with a name that can be split into both Leo and Nina. There is a word in English that translates the feeling behind the name quite well. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Leonine as of, relating to, suggestive of, or resembling a lion.”
Leonina is a self taught neuve-invention painter, muralist and photographer. In an six year span Leonina’s art collection has travelled the world: Their work can be found in the collection of famous models, musicians and world leaders. Leonina is co-founder and former curator of Art Mart FXBG/AM Design Studios a multi-disciplinary art and safe space for artists in the City of Fredericksburg. From May of 2015 to July of 2017 Leonina curated each monthly art exhibition (sometimes splitting the gallery into two or three different exhibitions) with First Friday openings. From well-established artists to new artist both international as well as local and always with a strong focus on giving Queer/Trans, People of Color and feminist artists and makers a chance to showcase in an otherwise conservative arts scene. Leonina also booked and curated weekly programming including music shows, poetry showcases, pop-ups and fundraising events for worthy causes.
In the fall of 2017 Leonina founded Saint Solaris a design agency focusing on providing graphic/web design, branding and creative consulting services to individuals, small businesses, nonprofits and creative professionals. Saint Solaris focuses on providing Great Design for Great Causes. Saint Solaris is the Radical Agency.
Leonina’s Modern Memento Mori photography series has won them photography awards and placed them in the Forty Under Forty Artist of Virginia in 2016. Modern Memento Mori is an ongoing project exploring the way people grieve in the digital age and in the fall of 2017 Leonina launched a Medium publication to add a written component and the chance for people all over the world to submit their own content to add to the subject. Leonina is the sole editor of Modern Memento Mori.
Self-taught and with a distinctive, informal and powerful voice Leonina writes their thoughts on social justice issues on Medium, where they have won top writer awards for both their writings on Intersectional Feminism and Race Relations.
Leonina’s written work can be found in small publications, zines and magazines. Their political expose and reporting in TeleSur English.
Their first published poem can be found in Open to Interpretation Vol. 1 an art book concept which matched 18 writer’s to 18 artists to interpret their work through art, for a unique experience of the written and visual. Curated by Liberty Town Arts in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Leonina is set to release their first self-published poetry book in the Winter of 2017.
For over ten years Leonina has joined various protests, walkouts and marches for the liberation of marginalized groups in the United States. Currently Leonina is a member of SONG (Southerners on New Ground) and ICE out of RVA where they lend their creative skills to impact change. In Fredericksburg they led Food Not Bombs for two years. Leonina comes from a long line of Communist thinkers and revolutionary people. Their choice to keep both paternal and maternal last names reflects that-- Rodney Arismendi her great uncle is considered one of the most important Latinx American ideologues of Communism. They are also related to the president of the Presidium of the League of Communists of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Vidoje Žarković.
Leonina was arrested in 2015 on the University of Mary Washington campus in the City of Fredericksburg along with two other student activists for occupying the university’s president office while students from VSEC demanded the college divestment from fossil fuels. The case was quickly dismissed in court on 2016 thanks to the pro-bono work of civil rights attorney Jonathan Oates of NOVA.
Leonina and their free downloadable poster design was noted by Latina magazine in 2017 as one of the many influential Latinas participating on the Women’s March.
Leonina has never been able to divorce their politics, advocacy and activism from their art and writing, instead choosing to let them influence their work and their life through their journey of self realization, decolonization and transition into their own gender identity. This has lead them to an oftentimes misunderstood, lonely and sometimes dangerous road, facing blacklisting from Fredericksburg businesses for speaking out against racism and homo/transphobia, as well harassment from white supremacists gangs, police monitoring their social media in the guise of concern of Leonina being a ‘public nuisance’ and character assassination from disgruntled white artist whom appropriate and plagiarize from Indigenous folks. Their last solo show in Fredericksburg before closing Art Mart and moving on to Richmond was entitled #BannedInFXBG.
“You can't help it. An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times.”― Nina Simone