Today we’d like to introduce you to Mela M aka Mela Marsh.
As an artist, M has been and will continue to be in my professional name. At times, people invariably ask about the standalone M. In part, I use the M as a way of denoting a more neutral but all-inclusive cosmopolitan worldview. This is opposed to the narrow, limiting and potential divisiveness that comes with arbitrary or stereotypical classifications based on political, national, institutional or other biased human perspectives. In other words, M becomes a multi-layered mystique driven tribute to that historical challenge that every artist has faced or knows: The freedom of artistic expression!
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born in Russia and grew up under the oppressive communist rule of the time. The notorious “Bulldozer Exhibition” took place in Moscow in the 1970s. Then Premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered the violent demolition of an abstract-geometric art exhibition sponsored by the avant-garde artists of the time. In 30 minutes the exhibit was destroyed and the artists were jailed, deported and even murdered. In spite of this dark atmosphere of ruthless atrocities, I was able to create and escape into my own world through drawing and sketching various things in early childhood while staying with my grandmother. There was no interest in art since both of my parents were electrical engineers. Instead, my father taught me chess! However, I lost him at age seven to a freak accident. Even then I did not lose this quiet passion for art as I continued to draw and dream.
Later as a young teenager, ironically, I recall traveling to a school that taught chess. The chess school was on the second floor of the building which required any visitor to go through the first floor upon entry. On the first floor, I was distracted but intrigued by the art school that took up this entire space!
My interest was noticed by the artist and instructor, Valery Yeltsin. He invited me to draw my first still life and he also reviewed my short lifetime of accumulated artwork. After this, he made sure I was enrolled in my first art school! He inspired me to honor my calling as an artist and taught me many invaluable lessons for which I will be forever grateful. Here my mind was free to recall the many memories from my childhood of the beauty and grandeur of St. Petersburg with its mesmerizing architectonic colors, forms, shapes, and illusions. And the memories of countless visits to the Hermitage where I was inspired by the incredible art that adorned the museum. My inspiration as a young artist came from the Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich who pioneered the geometric abstract art movement of Suprematism.
Later, I finished high school by taking evening classes so I could use the majority of my free time to take art classes. To help finance these endeavors, I obtained a lucrative job as a poster designer for a train station. Because I made decent money designing the posters, private art lessons were affordable. Eventually, I relocated to Moscow with the goal of entering a popular art and textile institute. I worked the night shift in a textile factory as a worker to pay for more art classes.
Nevertheless, because I was virtually unknown and lacked the social and political connections, financial resources and insider favoritism necessary to navigate the formidable and infamous Moscow bureaucracy, I abandoned my plans and relocated to Belarus. It was here that I earned an MFA degree in textile design. Soon after, it became clear to me that to really flourish and grow as an artist; I needed more freedom of expression. This was absolutely essential but meant that I would have to leave my mother country.
After coming to America, I soon earned an MFA degree from Claremont Graduate University where I explored post-minimalist contemporary architecturally shaped geometric art. After graduating, I taught art part-time at various colleges while working at my studio at the Brewery Art Colony in Los Angeles.
Here in America, I have been influenced by the geometric shapes of Frank Stella and Tony DeLap. In architecture by Steven Hal, Maya Lin, and Iraqui-British architect Zaha Hadid. Also work by James Turrell, Roland Reiss, Sol LeWitt, just to name a few who inspired me the most.
I am grateful and honored to say that my work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Alexandria Museum of Art, the Coos Art Museum, the Riverside Art Museum, the Masur Art Museum, Duke University, the Kobe Design University in Japan, the Patricia Faure Gallery in Santa Monica, the Museum of Contemporary Art at Minsk, Belarus and many others.
Please tell us about your art.
My intention is to continue evolving my contemporary abstract perspectives of the architectonic world that surrounds us. Here in Los Angeles, I am surrounded by everything that is unique and congruent with my vision. Several of my works such as “Pink Sun Over the City”, “Downtown Los Angeles Homeless Camp”, “The City of Angels” and “Architectonic Metamorphosis for the New Common Era” are definite examples of inspiration that only Los Angeles can give.
In my paintings, I combine multiple points of perspective. This allows the viewer to observe the objects in the paintings from the top, sides, and bottom at the same time, which makes for simultaneous views. I’m interested in the association of architectural objects and the way they are viewed from memory, but not necessarily the specific architectural objects per se. In my paintings, you have a feeling of recognizing specific objects, such as a window, room or street, but the more you look at them you realize they do not make actual sense. They don’t correspond to each other spatially. They are not distinct objects; they reinforce the idea of a quasi-rational and architectonic three-dimensional space. The dialogue between space and form and light and shadow have to be negotiated by the viewer.
After returning from a three-month art residency in Japan in 2017, I began working on my biggest and most ambitious project to date. I am nearing completion of the cutting and painting of 53 different sculptural pieces that can go together as one sculptural installation or, alternatively, each piece can also be a standalone work. This work represents the concept of an orbiting megatropolis losing gravity.
As gravity diminishes, these architectural monoliths ascend and descend as they transform the capacity of space. The shapes induce a prismatic explosion of colors from the inside out. I use synergistically generated multiple layers of high intensity acrylic paint to capture the universal phenomena of geometric waves, vibrant fields and optic frequencies.
Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
I would say, be mindful and stay in the present and focus on your art. Do not resist or react to or avoid any challenges or obstacles to your commitment as an artist. Rather, embrace any conflict and know that in doing so, you’ll discover hidden dimensions that will ultimately serve to inspire and inform your art.
In the words of speaker and author Les Brown, he encourages us to “Be patient, continue to persist and move in the direction of your dream. Even if you don’t have a dime in the bank or lost your job, be patient! You have the power in you to pull this out. Don’t judge yourself based on what you don’t have. What you have is enough. Hold the vision. You have the power in you to resurrect your dreams and make them become a reality. Work on yourself. Believe in yourself and in a power greater than yourself. Be patient and keep moving forward. Things will work out for you. Remember…You have something special. You have GREATNESS within you!!”
Also, I learned in my work as a volunteer for abused women in a shelter facility and during my time teaching neglected children and adolescents recovering from drug addiction, that art can work magic. Even during the worst of circumstances, these people were able to produce artwork that was truly remarkable and exceptional. This gave them, as it gives anyone, an avenue to express their imagination and reveal their better and higher self.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Anyone who is interested and wants to see more of my work can visit my website or visit my art studio by appointment. You can connect with me through my email or via Facebook messenger. The photos included represent a small preview of my new work which will be solo exhibited at the OC McNish Gallery at Oxnard College from mid- January through the end of February 2019. Opening reception is on Wednesday, Jan. 1/23, 4:00-7:00 pm and the art talk is at 4:30 pm.
- Website: www.melamstudio.org
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mela.m.studio/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mela.marsh