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Living Life to the Fullest In Southwest Missouri

Jorge Leyva Studio

Jorge Leyva Studio

Sometimes I’m surprised to learn about “big city” type businesses or attractions that exist right here in our little neck of the woods.

Other times, I’m simply blown away.

This was the case last week when I walked through the doors of artist Jorge Leyva’s studio. My eyes instinctively lifted upward, absorbing the vibrant colors of the enormous paintings hung on the soaring walls.

Was I still in Joplin?

Certainly not, because the feast for the eyes that surrounded me was more likely to be viewed at a gallery in New York or Los Angeles.


Luckily for us, this talented artist chooses to live and work in our city. And, even luckier for us, he welcomes visitors into his studio so they can see his work.


leyva bird


There are paintings,

leyva army crabs


pottery pieces,

leyva pottery

and metal and stone sculptures on display in Jorge’s studio. One wall is dedicated to storage, and on it there are rows of his work neatly tucked away. (I wanted to see each and every one, but that would have taken days).

leyva statue

I spent two hours at the studio, talking to Jorge about his work and his background, and I easily could have stayed there the rest of the afternoon. That’s because a conversation with Jorge is easy; he’s laid back, has a playful sense of humor, and is utterly fascinating while at the same time being genuinely humble.

Originally from Peru, Jorge came to Missouri to study engineering, but a close friend helped him see that his true talent was expressing himself through art. He graduated from Missouri Southern State University with a BA, from Pittsburg State University with an MA, and then from California College of the Arts with an MFA. He certainly has studied his craft.

In talking with Jorge, I discovered that his approach towards his art work centers around three things: creating a unique version of something that already exists, making an overwhelming statement, and sharing his knowledge with others.



Bringing imagination to each piece is an essential part of what Jorge does. Take a tree, for example. Anyone can see the tree and recreate it on canvas just as it exists in nature. Jorge, however, prefers to paint his “own version of a tree that no one has ever seen before.”

I understood what he meant when I looked at this painting in his gallery.


leyva toilet

Yes, this is what you think it is.


This seemingly ordinary household fixture that we rely on, yet give little thought to, is transformed into a curious piece of art that has its own presence. How? Jorge uses several colors in the porcelain, giving it richness and depth, and the missing toilet lid and less-than-tidy state of the bathroom give the painting character.

Jorge explained that the painting, like all of his works, was an extension of himself; his version of how he saw his subject. “This,” he said, pointing to the, ahem, commode. “This is Jorge,” he chuckled.



Not only was the painting of the toilet unique, but it was huge! You can’t get a sense of its size from the photo above, but it’s overwhelming – not in an uncomfortable way, but in a way that takes your breath away.

To get a better idea of the size, here’s a photo of Jorge standing next to one of his paintings.


leyva with man


Now that’s overwhelming!

Jorge’s desire to create artwork like this formed early in his life. When he was a boy, his class was given an assignment to paint an animal on an 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper. Dissatisfied with the paper’s size, Jorge found a much larger piece and painted a lion on it.

When the teacher displayed all of the artwork on a wall, all Jorge could see was his proud lion among the smaller animals, and something stirred inside him. He realized that he loved to paint, and he realized that he wanted his paintings to cause a response in those who viewed them.



People certainly have responded to his work over the years, that’s for sure. Just travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico (the artists’ mecca), and you’ll see Jorge’s work displayed in the Nuart Gallery, which features contemporary fine art.

Oh, and that red metal sculpture in front of Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin? That’s Jorge’s work, too.


Spiva sculpture


Even though Jorge’s artwork is sold to people from all over the globe, he brings everything back to his home town in order to enrich the Joplin community. Each year, he holds an artist’s show – for other artists. He opens up his studio and invites them to display their work.

He also offers artist workshops, too, where he shares his knowledge, wisdom – and sense of humor.

Because, according to Jorge, a gift is meaningless if left unshared.

Thanks for sharing, Jorge.


leyva headshot


butterfly pic


You can visit the Jorge Leyva Studio on Thursdays and Fridays, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM (please call before coming: 417-623-8085). The studio is located at 1305 East Vandalia Street in Joplin. Click here to visit its website.

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This article was commissioned by the Joplin CVB, however the opinions expressed are purely my own. The purpose of Joplin MO Life is to highlight all the best that our area has to offer, and when an article is written about a restaurant, business, attraction, or event, it is because I have had an enjoyable experience and want to share it with others.

Click here to visit the Joplin CVB’s Facebook page.










Living Life to The Fullest!

Joplin MO LifeI love seeking out new experiences and finding places off the beaten path. I started Joplin MO Life in August 2013 as a way to share my discoveries with others in the Joplin community so that they can learn about the resources that exist right in their own backyards.

I have worked in education and event planning, and have always loved to write. I hold a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor's degree in marketing from Tulane University.

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