Leanne first developed her printmaking and textile skills at Manukau Institute of Technology. She then went on to complete a Bachelor of Visual Design 2005 and Masters of Fine Arts in 2007 at Auckland University of Technology, where she received prestigious scholarships along the way. Since graduating, Leanne has developed both an artistic and a curatorial practice. She was the assistant curator for Jim Vivieaere on Black White Black Pearl in 2008 as well as curating Strengthening Sennit at the St Paul St Gallery the same year. Though
Her interest lies in traditional art practice, especially those closely associated with women’s work. Consequently, Leanne often employs materials associated with domestic craft, notably felt, embroidery and calico. Play, 2005, was a series of soft-toy bears, covered in screen-printed calico. The use of calico specifically references the resourcefulness of Pacific craft traditions. In Samoa, calico arrived in the form of sugar, flour and rice sacks. These sacks would then be adapted to provide material for printmaking. She similarly repurposed the humble blanket to create a series of ilis (fans). More recently, Leanne has been making a series of Ula Lei (flower necklaces) using a variety of found materials, including measuring tapes and chilies.
Leanne’s interest in traditional art practices notably extends to patterns and how they can carry meaning. Of particular significance in her practice are the patterns found in tatau, traditional Samoan tattoos. Bodice Quilt, 2006, a mixed media installation piece, explored the patterns found in her malu, a Samoan tattoo specifically for women. Leanne embroidered tatau designs and motifs onto bodices made from felt. These were then installed in rows, referencing the grid formations found in tapa as well as the regular woven pattern found in falas (woven mats). Similarly, the act of embroidery mimics the puncturing of the tattooist’s needle through skin. To the multiple bodies, Leanne added felt umbrellas and scattered the flowers of a silk ula lei upon a fala. The umbrellas can be understood as a reference to the meaning of Fa‘a malu, which translates literally as ‘to shelter oneself from the rain’.
Leanne’s work has been included in many exhibitions, including A fine possession: jewellery and identity, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, 2015; Fly Me Up To Where You Are: Te Waharoa, Artstation, Auckland, 2013; To Be Pacific, Tairawhite Museum, Gisbourne, 2003; Vintage Threads, Expression Arts and Entertainment Centre, Upper Hutt, 2012; Pacific Currents, Waiheke Art Gallery, Waiheke Island, 2011; Fefine Woman, Hunt Club Community Arts Centre, Victoria, 2011; Pan-Pacific Nation, The Arts at Marks Garage, Honolulu, 2009; Le Folauga, Kaohsiung Museum, Taiwan, 2008; What’s That??, Ramp Gallery, Hamilton, 2008; and Current, Whitespace, Auckland, 2007. Her work belongs in the collections of Pataka Art + Museum in Porirua, Wellington and Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA).