Leo Castañeda (b. Cali, Colombia 1988) is a multi-media artist and experimental game designer living in Miami, FL. Fusing gaming, painting, virtual reality, drawing, and interactive sculpture, Castañeda’s work probes how the language and structures of video games intersect with the world at large. Through open mythologies built across feedback loops between analog and digital, Castañeda’s work reimagines the corporeal, ecological, and socio-political anatomies that govern our cultural operating systems.
Castañeda received his BFA from Cooper Union in 2010 and MFA at Hunter College in 2014. Residencies include SOMA Mexico City (2014); “Of Games III” at Khoj International in New Delhi India (2015); Bronx Museum AIM Fellowship (2017), and Oolite Arts Studio Residency (2018–2019). In 2019 the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum commissioned Castañeda to create a video animation. He is also a recipient of South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual/Media Artists Fellowship, Locust Projects Wavemaker Grant, and Oolite Arts Ellies Creator Award. After two years as a professor of 3-D animation at Florida International University, Castañeda currently teaches 3-D animation at New World School of the Arts.
Using the language and structure of video games, my work generates multimedia worlds that explore the semiotic bounds of identity, progression, and interaction.
My practice encompasses film, video games and mixed-media installations as well as drawings and paintings that evoke othered worlds between abstraction and speculative fiction. The alien and familiar converge across feedback loops between analog and digital works: paintings and sculptures become forms, textures and blueprints within digital environments just as virtual spaces become references for IRL compositions.
The surreality of my childhood growing up in Colombia and visiting family the Brazilian Amazon largely functions as a point of departure for my world-building, with level design influences then ranging from Latin-American Surrealism & Abstraction (Roberto Matta, Agustín Fernández, Maria-Thereza Negreiros) to 19th-Century Romantic Painting (John Martin, Caspar David Freidrich) and Sci-Fi Literature (LeGuin, Butler, Borges) as well as epic video games, anime mythologies, & blockbusters (Dragon Ball, Evangelion, Journey, Shadow of the Colossus).
My works are organized under the linguistic structures in video-games, where words such as “bosses,” “levels,” “items,” and “stages” recall hierarchies of power throughout economic, cultural, and religious infrastructures. Deconstructing these political terms for formal and narrative exploration, my practice reimagines representations and modes of engagement with these figures.