Melissa Tomlinson Newell


Can I, through my art, reveal and explore my humanity? Can I through my art, become a better person? Can I through my art find ways to connect to people, places or ideas that are very foreign to me? Can I become a better mother, wife, friend, teacher, global citizen, advocate, or artist through the creative process? I am not sure, but I am trying.

When I begin my artistic process it is always as a result of asking myself, “What is it that makes me human?” I approach my art making with this fundamental question. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is art a way for me to work out my purpose and why I am here? These questions drive my approach to my subject and curiosity about media.

The images I explore are figurative; birds, my birds, people, my people, and animals, my animals. Living breathing animals and people – some I know, some I do not. In their faces, in their presence, I find what I am looking for, I find my heart, I find my soul. My challenge is finding a way to connect my sense of being and purpose through these visual forms.

Beyond the image, I am interested in work that bridges my interest and training in both sculpture and painting, two admittedly and decidedly conventional forms. In the more painterly works, I layer the acrylic paint, gel mediums, papers, boards, then sand it all back, and layer again until I find the being in the object.

My sculptural works are built of clay, carved, cut, sanded, painted and then sealed with encaustic in an effort to create a surface that generates a sense of timelessness. The process itself helps me unearth, excavate and discover the image. I want my work to look like it has been through something because it has and so have I, so have we all.

While the more technical aspects of my work are interesting they are not the most interesting. My creative approach calls me to engage art making through a process of intuition and a desire to see what will happen next. None of it is fully formed but starts with the materials and the ideas. The rest is left to exploration, process and a sense of completion once I have engaged the materials and ideas fully and have nothing more to say.

The larger and more interesting questions for me come from my own lived experiences as well as information I am continually trying to work through regarding my own humanity. These images serve as both my emotional response and metaphor as I try to re-imagine and re-interpret my world. Through these images I find my humanity and through the making of them I find the sacred.

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