Monday, November 2, 2009

INTERVIEW with Artist Melissa Slattery

Melissa is a good friend of mine. I met her when I lived in Ct. a few years back.  She + her husband, who she refers to as Dar, are both Artists and work at something different to pay the bills. Melissa is in the graphics dept behind the scenes at a community college and teaches there as well. She practices her Art whenever she can.

Melissa in the Luxemburg Gardens
by Gretchen


Gretchen by Melissa

a favorite picture of the both of us a coupla summers ago

and here's another fave shot of her behind that mag along with Alexander (teenage boy/step son/ Artist/groovester)

Melissa's beloved kitty, Franny.

kitty grass + night flowers- Datura in her garden

Melissa just graduated

from Wesleyan, receiving her MALS. I heard often about her process as she was doing her thesis project, which was extremely intense to say the least. While doing her thesis project Melissa documented the progress of it on a blog:  where you will be interested in reading + seeing some of the pics of the development of her Art for the monumental Ullyses thesis. Ullyses is way out of my league and all I can comment on is how beautiful the works of Art are that she fanatically created over a period of about six months altogether. Here is what Melissa has to say about some of the work and the photos that appear below:
"The island is just off Calf Pasture Beach, in Norwalk,  but it looks almost mythical, which is the point of my work, (thesis), you can find the mythical/universal all around you in your everyday life if you look for it --it's there. This seems to be the message of Joyce's novel. Well, one message.
The chandelier drawing is based on a photo of the stairwell of the Joyce Center in Dublin.
The drawing is about a climactic moment in the novel, "Ulysses," when Stephen Dedalus (main character) shatters a chandelier, symbolically shattering time and space (and thus becoming immortal).
In the novel, the shatttered chandelier passage contains a reference to a sword in a Wagnerian opera. I was trying to make a drawing with layered references, in response to Joyce's layering of references throughout the novel."
"The photo of the furniture in the bay window

was taken in the cottage of a head gardener at the Kylemore Abbey restored victorian garden, in Co. Connemara, in Ireland. I used this image in the book, Bloom's Book 9x9x9, because Bloom (also a main character) fantasizes about having a house in the country with extensive gardens. This is where he hopes to wind up. So it's the last page of the book I made about him, filled with all his calculations."


Q- Tell a bit about your special surface technique that you do your multi media drawing/paintings on:
A: I use a kind of spackle that has an alkyd resin base; smeared in a thin coat on 100% rag grey Rives BFK printmaking paper. I always use this paper.  As the spackle dries, it can be textured. I’ve been collecting different instruments to use for mark-making over the years. Different kinds of old tools are especially good for this.
Once the spackle dries, I sand it with different grades of sandpaper, which adds another level of texture. Then I use metallic acrylic paint to stain the surface, and this brings out the texture even more. Then I “find” a drawing on the surface somehow. And bring it out with ink or acrylic or pastels. Sometimes I collage.

Q- What inspires your artwork?
Other artists often inspire ideas. A visit to Gretchen’s house is always an inspiration. Also things seen in galleries, and more and more, looking at stuff online. Sometimes just seeing colors in my everyday life will start something, an idea. Often a reading will start something: I have used James Joyce’s epic novel, “Ulysses,” as a source for the last series of drawings, objects and artist’s books that I finished in May.

Q- You just did your Master’s thesis on “Ulysses,” show some images of some of the work and describe it.
In Ulysses, James Joyce attempted to create every aspect of a particular day in the life of his characters, as they wandered around Dublin on June 16, 1904.  The novel was a break-through that sparked the development of Modernist literature, and I believe no writer has yet surpassed Joyce’s literary feat. So, using this novel, which celebrates the beauty of everyday life, and elevates mundane acts to the mythical, was an obsession for the last two years. Joyce managed to reveal the universal in the particular of human experience, and created a kind of secular transcendence through his characters. I think visual artists are aiming for the same thing in their work.
All of the images shown in response to this notion of transcendence are from a book art work titled “The Heart of It.” I used a copy of “Ulysses” to make an altered book. I created 21 page spreads by gathering sections of the book and binding the edges with an EKG reading of my husband’s heart beat.  I tried to let some of the words on the pages show through and infiltrate/influence the images I created.

Q- You have done a lot of book art. Show some pics and describe some works.
I made six books for this project, all of them are accordian fold structures and each one relates to one of the three main characters. The one I made for Molly Bloom was fun because I drew several pairs of ladies bloomers, as a kind of symbol for Molly. She has some very funny comments about new bloomers in her soliloquy.

Q- What are you working on now that you have finished the monster thesis work and have your degree?
Well, I’ve been recovering, from doing all that work in a relatively short time frame of 4 months. The work has been out on exhibit in the library of the Community College where I work. Lately I’ve been doing a few drawings and taking lots of photos. I want to make a life-size cat out of shredded copies of Ulysses, and once winter is here, I think I’ll do that, when our hot air heater starts cranking.

Q-What would you like to be doing in 5 years?
I would really like to find a different, creative work outlet. I mostly enjoy the day job I have working in a Community College, as a designer and writer … but it is stressful and I’d like to segue into something more that’s digitally-driven, more in tune with the online world. I’m interested in creative humanitarian, or educational, efforts and it will be great to find a way to continue making images as part of this new work. I like to write and work collaboratively. I’m focused right now on becoming an adjunct professor and hope that leads to other opportunities.

Q- You're going back to Paris- what do you love about Paris?
Well, I love the Seine and the streets in the center of Paris. I want to spend more time exploring the Left Bank, the Luxembourg Gardens especially. Last time we were there, we only had 45 minutes before the park closed in the evening.
And the food is great, Parisians are fun to watch. I’m also hoping to get out of Paris and into the countryside on this visit. We may rent a car and drive out to the cathedral of St. Michel.

Q- Do you have a daily practice of some sort?
As a designer, I’m constantly working with words and imagery, and I photograph events regularly. It feels as if I am constantly developing my eye, as I’m always looking at visual stuff. Painting and drawing are sporadic for me, and I always need some kind of deadline for motivation.

Q- You've lived on the West + the East coasts. Which do you prefer and why?
I used to have an easy answer to this question: West! But having lived in Connecticut for the last 11 years, I’m kind of loving the seasons, and I just discovered kayaking, which is fabulous in this part of Long Island Sound. So I love both coasts now.

Q-Where have you shown your work?
In libraries and small galleries, mostly in group shows. I have won some awards, but not recently. I think the shift into digital/online exhibition is where I will be concentrating. Lately I’ve heard several disturbing stories about galleries exploiting artists, and I just don’t want to be bothered with that aspect of art. It’s not really about the art-making, it’s more about seeking validation and a kind of commodification that doesn’t really interest me that much. I have a hard enough time making time to do the work, and showing it is not a big priority.

Q- What question did I not ask that I should ask?
Well, I am really interested in materials and processes, and in interdisciplinary ideas. I think sometimes showing this kind of work is challenging, because I like people to be able to touch things, turn pages, handle stuff, and galleries aren’t really set up for this, at least at the level I connect (or don’t) connect with them. So I like the Open Studio platform, where I can be with people as they look through things.

These are some of Melissa's Book Art creations below.

Melissa is a devoted "book artist" and has taught book making at the Center for Book Arts in NYC. For many years she lived in Oakland, Ca. where she participated in the Book Art community and showed her work regularly. Below are some examples of her book Art.

(Yes, this is book Art)

These are some of my favorite works by Melissa. I especially like the kitty, which she sold.

You can see some better images of some of these works on her blog

Here are the handwritten Q + A's:
(click to enlarge)

That's it for this month's full moon post of Interview with Artist, Melissa Slattery.
See the next one on the next full moon.


  1. Please take some pics of the Art in your bathroom to add to this post-

  2. Hi Gretch,
    Thank you so much for publishing my stuff on your blog! One tiny correction: I got an MALS from Wesleyan. I'll send photo of bathrrom art tonight!
    Thanks for all the work getting the stuff up, I know it's time consuming!
    You have a fulltime job with all your blogs, daily paintings, interviews, etc.

  3. This is Melissa's sister, Patricia. I was doing a search for Production Artists, and could not find Melissa's email address at work. So I googled, and look what I found! It is absolutely unbelievable to me to read about my sister Melissa, the one we looked up to - the oldest of the girls. We have all had a tough time moving through the gates from childhood to adulthood - seeing each other as adult women, fully grown up and on our own. I feel I have just been given a GIFT from Gretchen, who sees my sister as an equally successful, strong, creative and gifted individual - I feel sad that I did not know these things about her. Thanks Gretchen for being a great friend to my sister! I hope to be one too - sooner than later. Best regards, and thank you again for your wonderful interview. She is truly a gift to this world.
    Patricia Mary Catherine Slattery Ochs


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