Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Harshman.
Melissa, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I‘m fortunate that I grew up in a school system that had a strong, nationally recognized arts program. Therefore I’ve always been involved in making art in some form. I went to Cornell University as an undergrad thinking I would do a dual major in art and pre-med, but soon realized I needed to focus on one or the other. I couldn’t see myself giving up art, so much to my father’s chagrin, dropped the pre-med major. I knew I wanted to do photography, but after my first etching class decided to do a dual art major of photography and printmaking. After Cornell, I moved to Boston and worked for two talented photographers as a photo assistant with the goal of becoming a professional photographer myself. After two years, I decided what I really wanted to focus on was printmaking and went back to graduate school at University of Wisconsin-Madison where I had the opportunity to work at Tandem Press. That experience was invaluable in learning beyond the classroom and led me to a job opening at the University of Georgia as a temporary Assistant Professor in 1993. I re-applied for the tenure-track position at UGA, and the rest is history. I have been teaching printmaking at UGA for 25 years.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do? Why? And what do you hope others will take away from your work?
In 1996 I was invited to participate in a print portfolio titled “Pictionary.” The portfolio was “virtual” in the fact that we only had to submit a digital image that included either an image from a dictionary or encyclopedia (this was at a time when digital technology in printmaking was new; a process exciting to some and threatening to others). This began my hunt for old dictionaries at flea markets and antique stores. I was interested in the images in the dictionary, specifically which illustrations featured women and what they were shown doing. These illustrations motivated my work for many years. I collaged the figures from the dictionaries with snippets and patterns from other printed ephemera to create new compositions with specific references commenting on the lives of women and girls.
In 2010 my focus shifted to the concept and imagery of the chandelier. The presentation of the work shifted to wall installations with printed imagery on wood or plexiglass substrates along with chandelier beads, referencing the chandelier without actually creating one. The gentle curve and sway of the chandelier beads eventually lead to the image of the flower garland, inspired by 19th-century Danish painter Johan Laurentz Jensen and 17th century Flemish painter Daniel Seghers. This began the transformation that has led to my current body of work, which focuses on the imagery of flowers. I am manipulating the multiple to create larger wall installations from smaller prints. A visit by artist/designer Natalie Chanin to UGA in 2016 inspired me to sew on my prints to create a different type of visual interest and mark-making in the work, transforming the paper to feel more like cloth or other materials. Color has become central in my work, sometimes for implied meaning and other times for aesthetic purposes. For example, after the 2016 election, I felt the need to print black flowers and created the wall installation titled “Mo(u)rning Flowers.” I screen-printed black floral silhouettes with black outlines and black stitching. The addition of sewing along with subtle gloss overprinting transformed the work to feel like leather. This piece is currently in the exhibition “Impress(i)on A Survey of Contemporary Printmaking” at the Mood Gallery at Berry College, which will be up for the month of February.
Most recently I have turned my attention to using paper pulp to create images. This is a new direction I hope to exploit further with investigations on using paper as a medium, giving the work a more dimensional aspect while also examining how different fibers will react with sewing and printing.
My intention with my work is to bring something beautiful into the world that can also be thought provoking and/or meditative with subtle innuendos.
How can artists connect with other artists?
Artist residency programs are an excellent way to nurture one’s own creativity as well as meet other artists who work in a variety of media. Attending art openings and participating in workshops are also ways to connect to other artists. And of course there are social media sites to create connections.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I have worked included in the exhibition “Impress(i)on A Survey of Contemporary Printmaking” at the Mood Gallery at Berry College in Berry, GA from February 4-28, 2019.
I will have work in the exhibition “Pressing Matters IX” at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta, GA from January 31- March 10, 2019.
I have work in the exhibition “artintheATL” at the Hartfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, GA from February 1, 2019- February 1, 2020.
I will have work in the “44th Annual Juried Exhibition” at the Lyndon House Art Center in Athens, GA from March 7- May 3, 2019.
I will have work in the 20th Annual Art Papers auction on March 2, 2019, in Atlanta, GA.
You can see more of my artwork at melissaharshman.com.
- Website: melissaharshman.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissaharshman/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissa.harshman
Ellen Climo, Personal Photo
Melissa Harshman, Image Photos