Melissa’s artistic journey began when she was very young. She remembers a curiosity for the images found in her grandfather’s library. She would spend hours studying and drawing images of birds, mammals, reptiles and even Greek gods. She had a curiosity for almost everything. Living on acreage close to the ocean meant endless hours playing in the forest or along the beaches. This curiosity was nourished through her large and eccentric family. Her family members were frontiersmen, fishermen and more notably, storytellers. These early years served as a catalyst for Melissa’s desire to tell a different story, one through images.
Melissa left home at a very young age, 15. Wherever she went she managed to find work in the outdoors, with animals or on farms. Her love for wildlife and nature endured wherever she went. She graduated high school with an artist award and was sponsored for art school. Melissa found herself at a crossroads after completing two years of intensive art studies. It was expensive and distracting living in the lower mainland, and having horses meant bills larger than she could afford. So, at 21 Melissa moved north and found work in the coal and oil mines. Melissa lived in very remote areas where she encountered wild animals, rugged landscapes and different ways of life. Her love for the untamed Canada intensified and she soon realized she couldn’t continue mining; she wanted to do something more positive in life. She decided to study something different: the human condition. Melissa went back to school at 26 and completed a degree in Psychology at UBC. Her interest in this subject stemmed in part from her own mental health issues, but also because of her older brother. Brent has a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome, the issues with this syndrome left him isolated, in emotional and physical pain. Learning about how genetics, environment and biology interact to produce differing symptoms has given Melissa a different perspective on life and in the way she understands people.
All these experiences have been a catalyst for the works she creates. Her work focuses on a range of subjects, and uses a variety of both bought and found materials. Canadian landmarks and animals that symbolize traits and Indigenous knowledge inspire her work. Melissa also focuses on the interaction between humanity and the living earth. Some of her works are meant to make the viewer wonder about their own relationship to waterways, nature and the impact of our consumption. Her focus is to portray nature’s resilience to harsh and changing environments while also discussing ways nature can provide insight.
For me, creating art is a way of understanding the natural world. I am a visual, spiritual and physical explorer of nature and humanity. I spend a great deal of time in the back-country where I encounter rugged landscapes and wild animals. In these places I am deeply moved and inspired to create. I keep visual records of nearly everywhere I visit, in the form of small watercolor sketches or photographs. I use these records later to create larger acrylic and oil paintings.
I draw much of my inspiration from water, depicting oceans, rivers, lakes or glaciers. Sometimes I place a figure in these pieces, gazing towards the ocean or with a foot in a stream. I want the viewer to moved by the calm and peaceful tranquility that water can bring.
Recently I have been interested in painting images related to the Fraser River, in relation to climate change, wildlife and habitat. The Fraser River is home to many species of wildlife, humans and is a source of industry. It connects people to one another and is part of one of BC’s most important salmon runs. This river is important for economy and the health of our province. I think knowing more about this river and the challenges it faces is important to help us take the right measures to protect it.