Friday, September 8, 2017

Exploring Art and Artist :: Melanie Mason

Connections:  what connect us?  How are the details, the experiences, the threads of our lives woven to link us into a greater existence, whether physically, with people or beings; emotionally, with our feelings; or spiritually, strengthening our faith in the unseen?  I certainly don’t know the answer in whole, but I believe my journey in these monthly interviews will introduce me to my “teachers”, these beautiful artists who have found some of these connections in their art. 

Melanie Mason

Melanie Mason found her love for art and creativity at a very young age.  At about the age of 6, she was given a Spirograph, and from that moment on, she could not put it down and loved to create many shapes and designs and use of colors.  

However, as with many of us, life sent her down a different path which was too busy with career, marriage and children to allow her to work on her artistic dreams.  It was just in the last ten years that her life has allowed her, and she will also add, thrown her, into her search for those connections that she needed to make her life complete. 

As I sat around her home filled with artistic energy from ceiling to floor, on every wall and piece of furniture, in her dishes and glassware, in the shower stall made from broken teacups, I found myself hanging on every word as she answered my questions.

What style or medium do you use for your artwork? 

I started out working in watercolors. This was a great experience for me, but I found that the pictures were too realistic. I found that something was lacking, and over time discovered that what was lacking was the imagination in my art.  So I allowed my imagination to guide me, and the path took a turn that could be described as more whimsical, taking the seriousness out of life and replacing it with just plain fun.  I create art in many different forms, from watercolor to oil paintings to gardening, to creating decorated glassware for my home, to making very unique jewelry, to designing women’s dresses from men’s t-shirts that have spectacular designs, to my newest endeavor of using a bandsaw to cut large shapes out of wood, sanding them, and then designing art on them.

If your art was your fishing line, and you cast it out and then reel it back in, what is at the other end of the line?

Fun.  Happiness.  The purpose of my art is to remind people not to take life so seriously.  When I do a painting, I put little surprises in the design that the customer has to look for.  Tiny messages in little spaces throughout the painting, accentuating small insignificant details like whiskers and eyelashes, nostrils and ears. Unique items in my jewelry like watch faces and the Three Stooges!  I throw it all out there to the world and receive the joy that they experience!

What inspires you as you prepare for a project?

Taking note of all the unique beauty in the world around me, as well as taking time to be unique myself.  I love trees.  I love that each tree is so different; it really makes me look at one project in many different ways.  I love animals and have always loved drawing and painting them.  Once I had a birthday party and showed up wearing rows of pearls and a pink tutu!  It was just an expression of fun and inspiration!

Melanie found herself the victim of advanced stage breast cancer seven years ago.  After undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy, she needed something to focus on, to keep her thinking about something other than her scars, her loss of hair, her nausea, her fears.  She bought an older home in the city and began to renovate the home and to dive into her artwork. 

I wonder two things about the connection between your art and your cancer.  On one end of the pendulum, you have your art, your creative expression.  On the other end, you have many issues you were dealing with  related to the cancer.  Your emotions, fears, anger, denial, physical fatigue, nausea, illness, dealing with the possibility of end of life. You needed support, therapy, strength. What I am wondering is, does your art become your therapy, your strength, your support?  Does your art affect how you deal with your cancer?  OR does your cancer affect how you do art?  Does it change your focus, your influence?

Well, probably a little of both.  My art was definitely my therapy.  It kept me busy and focused while I was going through my chemo. Even before that, as a way of fighting back, I painted two sensual pictures of myself to help me feel (and document) my womanhood fully and completely, before surgery would disrupt that.

Art was my lifeline.  But as far as cancer affecting my art, I would say yes as well.  Because of my cancer, my art took on more importance.  I wanted more than ever to put joy out into the world.  I wanted so much for my art to have more meaning for others; I wanted my art to actually participate in the lives of those who see it, or demand participation from the viewer.  Which is why I leave small messages and designs that people have to search for.  They need to engage to find the joy in my artwork.  I began to do art that would leave a legacy when I am gone.  I have these collages with comic strip backgrounds and all my grandchildren’s favorite items, so they will always have something to remember me by.

Where would you like your art to take you in the future?

I want to become bolder and braver with my art.  Maybe someday enter my artwork in Grand Rapids Art Prize.  (This is an annual competition that draws artists from all over the country and takes over the entre downtown.)

How do you define creativity?

Creativity to me is a place, a “zone” that takes me away from my problems.  It is a healthy need.  It is a place to go to where healing comes from a higher place as you express this healing in your artwork.  Creativity is the way in which we bring out the best in ourselves.

If you had one lesson that your art could teach others, what would it be?

Don’t take life so seriously.  It is meant to be enjoyed. 

Connections.  I so enjoyed this wonderful evening, learning how the threads of Melanie’s world came together to strengthen her and give her a reason and desire to live fully, during a time when she literally faced death.  How the bright, whimsical, message of her art helps others to connect to joy, to a more positive outlook, to physical beauty and heartwarming emotions.  I hope reading about Melanie’s journey helped you to weave a few more threads of awareness of how your own creativity connects you with your world.  I know it has done that for me. 

If you are interested in learning how you may purchase Melanie’s artwork, or would like to send her a message of inspiration, you may LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW! 
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