A few notes on femininity and my art.
Personal and Professional Impact:
I only learned to really wear a dress after art school when I shined shoes at a Chicago night club in a Betsy Johnson little black dress. My pay was based on tips and needless to say the tips were good. I grasped a new perspective of my femininity around that same time when I was unexpectedly invited, but declined, into a high class call girl ring. Tempting as it was, I had paintings to make and I changed jobs to work in a gallery. During those 20 something years I was doing line drawings based on the misconceptions men and women have about their own and opposite sex.
But that was then. Now 20 years later, I am still very aware of being a woman making paintings. I made the choice of not having children in order to continue my studio practice. When I met my husband I offered to have his baby but that he would have to take care of the child, and luckily he was of the same mind not to. Now we are both painters and he does far more than his half of our domestic chores, bills and the maintenance of our business.
There were not many examples or role models of women who were able to do both children and art in the 80’s and 90’s, equally few men who were willing to share the responsibility. There are more of both now and that makes me happy that younger artists have more options. At 43 I am so grateful that I could continue my painting life uninterrupted.
I identify much of my femininity with my mother who was not your typical housewife from cable's 1960’s Madmen. She was/is a strong willed, unconventional, horse-breeding, hard working, take charge mother who in all circumstances preferred working outside on a project. She couldn’t fathom a career as an artist for me. Still, she was my role model. A sensual tomboy, a woman who had dreams and determination, who knew what she wanted and a pioneering spirit to make it all happen. Seeing her follow through on her wild hair ideas made me realize it was possible to follow mine, to forge my own path as a painter.
Feminine Elements in the Work:
I have heard viewers surprised that my work was by a woman.
Painting is a pleasure seeking process for me, and abstraction a vehicle with which to think. I defy polarized thinking. I believe the subjective, raw emotion, knee jerk of self reference as an approach to creating only has life when paired with objective examination - connecting conceptual reasoning with abstract ideas and theories of the mind. Elements of accident, drips, crude and tentative mark marking might represent a vulnerable, stumbling, faltering humanness. A willingness to be too exuberant or to utterly fail. And I am interested in interchanging these gestural features with facets of excising line, precise shapes, or graphic forms that may reference mental processes of math, geometry, order, reason, or multiplicity.
I am patient with my work, perhaps nurturing, and do often think of them as little soldiers perhaps more than children. I am willing to see them through. However, I want them to know poetry and the great books. To know the virtues of hard work and the drunkenness of play. I like to look at them for a long while and to have tea with them. I am detail oriented with them, but give them room to be independent. I want them to flirt and I want them to be serious. If my paintings were a girl I would want them to intrinsically know how to dress for the cotillion but not necessarily keep their voices down or have conventional manners. To do what was necessary to stimulate conversation. I have to admit: I would want them to be beautiful, pretty, sexy, dirty and smart.
Melanie Parke January 2010
Melanie Parke was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1966.
- B.F.A., The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL
- Oxbow Summer School of Landscape Painting, MI
- Herron School of Art, IN
- Brebeuf Jesuit College Preparatory High School, IN
- Outward Bound, Mount Katahdin, ME
- Carleton College Summer Writing Workshop, MN
Selected Solo and Group Exhibitions
- Abstraction and Still Life, Melanie Parke
- Modern Arts Midwest, Lincoln NE
- 8th Annual Summer Show, Melanie Parke and Richard Kooyman Old Art Building, Leland, MI
- Four Painters bsgModern, Atlanta, GA
- Three 2D, Three 3D William Havu Gallery, Denver, CO
- New Work, Melanie Parke & Richard Kooyman Anne Loucks Gallery, Glencoe, IL
- New Work, Melanie Parke & Richard Kooyman Gebben Gray Gallery, Fennville, MI
- The Contemporary Landscape Harris Magee Gallery, Jackson MI
- Along the Shore, Melanie Parke & Richard Kooyman Anne Loucks Gallery; Glencoe, IL
- Land, Sky, Feild, Flower, Melanie Parke & Richard Kooyman Tvedten Gallery, Harbor Springs, MI
- Bowery Gallery, New York, NY
- The Island Within Us Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, MI
- Landscapes of Community Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City, MI
- Eight Perspectives of the Midwestern Landscape Freeport Museum of Art, Freeport, IL
- The Leelanau Connection Midland Center for the Arts, Midland, MI
- Oxbow Summer School, Art Institute of Chicago School, Saugatuck, MI
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI
- Acadia National Park, ME
- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, WV
- Badlands National Park, SD Yosemite National Park, CA
- Isle Royale National Park, MI
- Dorland Mountain Colony, CA
- National Student Government and Leadership Award
- Herron School of Art Merit Scholarship, IN
- United States Department of Interior
- Traverse City Chamber of Commerce
- Russo Communications
- Glencoe Capital, Chicago
- Thomas A. Duke Company
- Richard DeVos
- Watervale Resort
- Emprise Technologies
- Alice Wiley and Associates
- Unitrin, Inc.