January Artist Feature + Solo Show at Hawthorne Arts Complex

Read my accompanying interview below and check out the show if you are in the LA area!

Hawthorne Arts Complex is located at 13040 Cerise Ave in Hawthorne, CA. Feel free to email me at melissa.dyanne@gmail.com for details and directions.


Tell us a little about yourself and your background as an artist.

I’m originally from Seattle, WA. I’ve been fairly nomadic so have lived in and travelled to many places, both US and abroad, since leaving my home city. I went to graduate school in Philadelphia then spent some years in New York before moving back west. I am definitely a “west coast gal” and painter. 

I started painting and drawing very young. Most of my grade school/high school teachers have asked at one point if I ended up being an artist, so it was a pretty clear and consistent focus in my life from early on. I took a break in my late teens/early 20’s because I was unsure about pursuing painting as an actual profession, I feared I should get my bread loaf and tent ready since I had no clue how you would make a livable wage painting full time. I’m still not entirely sure, but here I am, painting away regardless.

What kind of work do you make?
I consider my work figure narrative. I also consider it a female-centric diary since the women I paint personify much of what goes on in my head. I’m influenced by Baroque art, Rococo, Nabi painters and some Pop-art. It’s a super strange mix but I try to get it to work. I also like to inject humor, the art world takes itself too seriously and I like to bring it down a notch.

What inspires you?

My dreams, daily walks, nighttime walks, working with the figure (live figure modeling sessions), snow, light, color, birds, good literature and short stories. Music sometimes. Paint also inspires me at times as does learning a new medium. 

How has your practice changed over the years? 

I’ve become more confident and streamlined in the last year or so. I’m relying less on classic technique and more on what is in my head. That feels extremely liberating. I had one period when I only painted abstractly (when I lived in NY) and as informative as that was, I realized if I did that full time I would give up painting. I need to have the figure in my work + some sort of narrative or I lose interest. 

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Someone bought a drawing of mine, a long time ago at an open studio. They said it reminded them of their home (they grew up in India) and I was thrilled that my work meant something to someone who grew up in an environment so removed from mine. Art should really have a universal appeal, and when I hit that cord correctly, I feel very satisfied.

Why do you make art? What role do you think artists have in society?

I feel compelled to make art. I’m completely out of sorts when I don’t, which has made me realize that it completely wrapped up in my identity. It’s also most likely an addiction, and in the world of addiction, not such a bad one to have :) 

Many say “anyone can make art”, and I do believe that, but to be and artist I think that the mind is wired a bit differently. Artists see connection and possibilities. Not only are they able to see them, they are able to create new pathways with those ideas. The world needs those kinds of thinkers, since it is not how most people operate in their daily lives. For most, the sound and smell of the coffee maker in the morning is just that, the sound and smell of the coffee maker. An artist doesn’t see, feel, smell or hear it that way. They are cognizant of the routine. They understand the smell relates to nostalgia, they know the sound triggers that smell and nostalgia. That’s why you need artists, otherwise coffee would just be coffee, no metaphors would exist.

Tell us about one of your favorite projects or pieces you have worked on. 

I’m actually really excited about my current paintings, that are taking forever to complete, but I take a deep breath and say they are worth it. I’m always the most excited about my present work since it is newer than my last idea and commanding my attention. Unfortunately this work will take a back seat to the even newer and shinier work that I will do in the future, but it’s ok, it keeps me pumped.