Artist's Statement

Permanence is an illusion and power an apparition. After enough time passes, the most any of us can hope for is to leave artifacts behind. With ordinary materials my artwork addresses the fleeting nature of power and a lack of permanence with both the tangible and metaphysical. Inspiration is garnered from Americana relics, eastern religious practices and an overall nostalgia for vintage materials. We impose a lot of metaphors on objects and possessions, which affects my chosen iconography. Flags, maps, Buddha silhouettes and gravestones are altered into somewhat antagonistic forms. Questions surrounding patriotism, pride and partisanship begin to emerge in work that is both satirical and idealistic. The results are overwhelmingly about mortality, but not exclusively dark or negative. Subtexts touch on resurrection, reincarnation and even recycling. 

Much of the work is made with ordinary supplies like matches, quilts, stickers, popsicles, temporary tattoos and other domicile goods. I am partial towards the “familiar,” in hopes of making the challenging subjects addressed in the work more accessible. There is not one mode or material that is preferred over another, but I often find myself gravitating towards sculpture in addition to working with drawing, collage, photography, installation and performance. 

My upbringing in the suburbs of Detroit, a Northern "Rust Belt" metropolis, combined with Southern “make do” perseverance, has had an enormous impact on my art. Repetition is a predominant motif, reminiscent of assembly line manufacturing from my Detroit origins, but this is combined with the hand-made (aka woman-made). Nationalism, particularly in the US, motivates work that questions the notion of a “homeland” and how national identity intertwines with individual identity. 


Born and educated in Detroit, Melissa is a multidisciplinary artist, educator and curator living in eastern Kentucky. Her studio practice explores national identity, folk art, ancestry, immigration and the perception of a homeland through everyday materials like fabric, stickers, wood, temporary tattoos, paper and found objects. Her work has been exhibited in Michigan, Alaska, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, California, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and New York. Melissa received a BFA from College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan (1999) and a MFA in Sculpture from Southern Illinois University - Carbondale, Illinois (2005). She has been the recipient of numerous grants including a Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichment Grant. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art and Foundations Director at Eastern Kentucky University.