In essence my work is about the process of drawing––the highly detailed layering of mark upon mark to create images and patterns. I have long work on surfaces other than plain paper. Surfaces that come with embedded histories such as graph paper, lace, pillowcases, and old road maps.
In the past year, I have repurposed envelopes containing bills, bank statement and other information requiring privacy into a series of ink drawings on security paper. My work is strongly influenced by the environment I am working in. The Birdland series began in the mountains surrounding the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming where I had a residency in late Fall 2022. Other work sites include the Shawnee National Forest surrounding my old farmhouse in Southern Illinois and the rust belt industrial buildings of St. Louis, my home-away-from-home. Many of the drawings in this series includes a floral/compass rose component and bird silhouette. While I use traditional drawing methods, these works also reflect my love of comix and tattoos. Birds have great symbolic meaning for me because my home lies below one of the largest migratory bird routes in the country—the Cache River Flyway.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
My work has been shown nationally with solo exhibitions at Franklin Furnace Archives, New York, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, and the Addison/Ripley Gallery, Washington, D.C. Recent group exhibitions include the American University Museum of Art, Washington, D.C., the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Michigan and Longue Vue House and Garden, New Orleans.
My 2021-2023 exhibitions include “Revolving” at the Sheldon Art Galleries, Saint Louis, “Trees Bark” at the Kranzberg Foundation for the Arts, Saint Louis and “Art Along the Rivers” at the Saint Louis Art Museum. In addition, the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago commissioned three map-based works and Southern Illinois Healthcare Cancer Institute commissioned eight small works on paper.
My work is in the collections of the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Illinois State Museum, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas-Lawrence, the Book Art Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Franklin Furnace Archives, among other venues.
In 2010, I created a permanent public artwork with Franz Meyer Glassworks of Munich, Germany for the “C” Concourse at Lambert St. Louis International Airport.
Grant awards include a 2022 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, a Critical Mass grant, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowship, and a Pyramid Atlantic artist’s book award. I have completed a number of residencies including a recent residency at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, the Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest, Illinois, and Palazzo Rinaldi, Noepoli, Italy.
© Mel Watkin