Briefly describe the work you do.I am currently working in fiber based sculpture and installation. Everything that I am creating is extremely process oriented and labor intensive making it a meditative practice for me. The substantial amount of time required for a piece to go from conception to creation allows an opportunity for evolution. My pieces rarely resemble my initial sketches in form, though they typically are much better manifestations of my conceptual intent.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up with a family that insisted that I should be free to make my own decisions. I’ll always remember my dad telling me at a very young age that I should pursue what I want to in life and not what I think I should because I didn’t want to be thirty years into a career and dislike what I was doing. This advice follows me even today and really helped me when I decided to quit my IT job and continue my education in fine arts. When I started as an undergraduate I was studying drawing because I was always interested in the line. I became enamored with the idea of pulling the line off of a page and placing it in three dimensional space and so I began my forays into sculpture and other 3D media.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I tend to work when I can and where I can and I find that multiple space is much better suited to my process. As such, while I have a formal studio set up I also always make a niche for myself wherever I am living. I like going to my formal studio to work on larger scale pieces, for information and feedback from my colleagues, and as a general social setting but my thinking usually happens at my home studio. The quiet lets me focus my thoughts and reflect on reactions to my work from viewers, while the formal studio setting lets me put those thoughts to action in a larger space that’s more conducive to the scale of my works.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I think the roles of social commentator and mediator are the two roles that I never expected to inhabit as an artist. I’ve always wanted to be a professor, so I knew that I would have to be able to communicate complex ideas both through works and words, but when I began as an artist the work was simply a raw outpouring of emotion that felt very me-centric. As I’ve come to understand myself a bit better I realize that all of the things that are important to me are made manifest in my work and as I’ve matured as an artist they are more compellingly spoken.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I typically work whenever I can, but I always feel at my zenith in the quietest moments of the night. While other people are asleep I ponder any number of things, and in almost all cases those things need to be brought into being in some shape or form immediately upon their inception. I am always afraid that my ideas will fade away with the morning light like ephemeral dreams if I’m not quick to capture them on the pages of a sketchbook or journal.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work is always evolving and what I was making five years ago is quite different from what I am doing today as a direct result. I believe that I’m more skilled, that my process is more well-developed. I feel I am constantly continuing to experiment and that allows me to learn, grow, and to create new ways of bringing to life my subject matter. My work has recently allowed me to tear down some long-lived emotional barriers and it has grown and changed immensely in a very short period of time. I am extremely excited to see where it takes me from here.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I am a constant reader and I incorporate a lot of what I find to be compelling into my world view which translates into my artistic output. I recently read The Structure of the Scientific Revolution by Thomas Khun and it really gets at the way I think and approach the world. As I evolve my perception of everything shifts in fundamental ways. Sometimes it may have minute outcomes on my work, but that minutia is how I can gauge my evolution as an artist. For a long time I was hung up on a very particular subject and after the catharsis was through I felt like I had a breakthrough in my work. I didn’t understand why the new work was seemingly so disparate from my old work until I realized that it was working through the same types of things except on a macrocosmic scale instead of a microcosmic scale. Because of that I have found myself able to interrogate a much wider array of issues that are important to me and I have realized what I was really trying to get at in the first place.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?A geologist. As odd as it sounds I have always had a fascination of and obsession with rocks. How they are composed, their lines and colors, and the variation of textures a rock can have are absolutely intriguing to me. My love of rocks has always left me with the sentiment that if I was not an artist, I would absolutely be a geologist.AboutMelissa Hill (b. 1986 in Norfolk, Virginia) is an award winning artist who received both her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D media and her Bachelor of Arts in Art History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture at George Mason University in the Washington D.C. suburbs of Fairfax, Virginia. A fascination of tactile materials and a love of line has lead her to her experimentation with yarn and other fibers. She currently works as an adjunct professor at George Mason University.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.