Melanie MehrerThe Orchard Pruners, Naramata, 2010watercolour10 1/2 " x 14"Value: $500Donated by the Artist
Melanie was raised in the small tight-knit community of Naramata. As a Canadian of distant European heritage, Melanie grew up believing the only culture worth noting in Canada was native aboriginal culture, and as a non-native it created disconnection and confusion about what culture is for a white Canadian. After graduating from Pen – Hi, she moved to the Dominican Republic to learn a new language and to immerse herself in “culture” as many Canadians perceive travelling to be. Upon returning to Canada, Melanie attended Okanagan College as a visual arts student and later transferred to the University of Victoria where she completed an honours degree in art history with a focus on Islamic art history where she was particularly drawn to the illuminated manuscripts and miniature paintings of India and Turkey.
In 1997 Melanie accepted a job in Taiwan as an English teacher and travelled to Japan. She was intrigued by the soft quality of the perfectly carved wood block prints in Kyoto and influenced by comic book images of Taipai, she began exploring paper collage and lino printing. As on all her trips abroad, Melanie kept extensive journals, which recorded her backpacking adventures, complete with images influenced by artist Nick Bantock. In keeping with the spirit of Bantock, Melanie used found bits of paper and collaged them into the pages of the journal, recording the adventures from a tactile paper perspective. In 2004, Melanie took a job in Shanghai. Disappointed by the lack of art supplies found in the city, she explored the fabric markets and began sewing blankets as a new form of creative expression. During a day trip to nearby Hangzhou, a city which Marco Polo described as “the most beautiful and magnificent city in the world”, Melanie was inspired by the old Chinese characters that were imprinted into the sidewalk around the most famous lake in China. She worked these characters into the blankets she sewed, surprised to find that her communist co-workers had lost the understanding of these historic ancient symbols with China’s switch to simplified Chinese characters after the Cultural Revolution. After China, Melanie moved to the UAE, where she worked mostly in photography before moving on to Turkey to live with her sister and take up painting full time. Melanie was inspired by life in Turkey and drew upon the simple everyday stories of Istanbul: modern versions of the vignettes found in the miniature paintings of yesterday.
Melanie began to develop her work as travel journals with no intended audience than herself and close personal friends and family. The works are richly biographical and draw upon her education and profound interest in art history, culture and wanderlust. Working primarily on paper, Melanie uses many mediums including paint, collage and printmaking. Her approach to art, though whimsical in style, achieves a high level of detail due to her attention to technique and her critical eye. Because she is a traveler, Melanie works small and with easily transportable materials and creates her own of unique style of story telling by fusing the materials available to her, the cultural environment she finds herself in and her own explorations of what culture means for a Canadian abroad. Melanie’s paintings are stories, not unlike the narrative in a miniature painting, and they pay homage to the culture that is still innate in her even after a decade spent travelling. Currently Melanie divides her time between Naramata and Vancouver, where she is completing a degree in Education at UBC and upon graduation she hopes to find employment as a high school art teacher.
For more information on Melanie and to follow her travels check out her blog at: