Leslie Molera likes to hide images in her paintings – usually spiritual – and rarely anything she thinks about doing when she starts the work.
The most recent creation depicts her vision of Suisun Valley, which was unveiled recently at an elbow-to-elbow event at the Filling Station at Mankas Corner, a wine shop owned by friend Wendy De Coito that features a wall mural of an oak tree that was painted by Molera.
“I’m very spiritual,” said the 59-year-old Molera, “and there is something (in the Suisun painting) that nobody knows about.”
She even prefers to listen to gospel music when she paints.
Molera then points to the upper central part of the piece where she used negative space in a tree line, and in the lower central part of the piece where she used the shadow of a statue to mirror an image of a dove.
“The Holy Spirit is the painting,” she said.
Art called at an early age
Molera’s mother received a note from her daughter’s kindergarten teacher to let her know her daughter was misbehaving a bit.
“(The teacher) wrote . . . that ‘Leslie will not share the easel with anyone,’” Molera recalls with a smile. She was just 5 years old. “So that is when my mother knew I loved art.”
Molera said there is a family link to art. Her father’s great-uncle was an architect, and while her mother never viewed it as art, she drew pictures in her daughter’s baby book.
Her own talent was exposed gradually. She was working at the Raley’s store in Vacaville when Thomas Raley started a merchandising contest among his supermarket outlets. So Molera produced a number of art pieces for her store.
“I put Mr. Raley in the middle of Mount Rushmore,” remembers Molera, perhaps the start of her habit of adding images to her paintings. She also recalls a Wild West scene she did.
A customer saw her work, then some photos of images Molera had painted in her own children’s rooms, and suddenly she was being asked to do a mural at a local dentist shop.
Up until that time, Molera, who grew up in Orange County and came to Solano at the age of 19, had evolved from wanting to be an architect to wanting to be a graphic artist to thinking more about fine art.
She was even taking classes at Solano Community College.
A reputation as muralist grows
One mural led to another, and now her work can be seen all around Vacaville: in several dental offices, at Napoli Pizzeria & Italian Food, in Maximum Fitness and at RW Garage Doors on Davis Street, where she painted an oversized Spanish-styled house with oversized garage doors.
But there was always one “mural canvas” that called out to Molera – the side wall of the Suisun Valley Antique & Collectibles at Mankas Corner.
“I was coming through the area all the time and the Suisun Valley Antique & Collectibles was screaming at me,” Molera said.
“I honestly believed God wanted me to paint it,” she said.
In fact, she believed God was telling her not to worry if she even got paid, because in time God would pay her.
Eventually, she approached business owner John Crossley with the idea and a sketch. It was important to combine the wine valley and antique store connection, so the old-styled fruit box with the business name seemed to fit the need.
“At the time, he just wasn’t able to move forward on it,” said Molera, adding that it took about a year more before she finally started the work, with Crossley proving all the supplies.
“So that is how this (Suisun Valley) painting came to be. The people who commissioned me to do this painting saw that mural,” Molera said.
God made good on his promise to pay.
From walls to canvas
The Suisun Valley scene first started out as a mural concept, but she convinced her commissioners to go with a canvas painting.
Molera said she was ready to focus more on canvas and less on murals.
She admits her family pays a price for the change, as she takes over the home’s kitchen and dining room area when working, and if the canvas is too big for the easel, she tacks it up on the walls.
Molera works in different styles, ranging from a surreal form to her favorite, abstract. Her favorite artist is Wassilly Kandinksy, a Polish-Russian artists “who paints in a lot of vibrant colors and abstracts.”
She also likes Salvador Dali, a kindredship that goes beyond the abstract to a shared Spanish heritage.
And it is that heritage that Molera, a mother of five, will soon turn her talents to next. With each new project, she said, the painting she enjoys most changes.
“I think my newest piece is my favorite one,” said Molera, who donated a framed print of the Suisun Valley painting to Jackie Plata to auction off at a Casa Solano fundraiser. The organization supports children and youth caught up in the difficulties of court.
“And I think the next one is going to be that way because it is going to be of Monterey, which is where my immigrant heritage came through,” she said. “I want to redeem some of that family heritage . . . I want to continue the Molera legacy that has been dropped for a couple of generations.”
LOOK FOR YOURSELF
Leslie Molera’s art can be viewed on her Instagram page, lamolera1. Prints are available for sale at the Filling Station at Mankas Corner.