Melanie Parke grew up on a small horse farm in Indiana and received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989. Committed to expanding opportunities for fellow artists, she was instrumental in initiating several artist-in-residence programs in the national parks since 1993. She helped spear- head the residency program at The Glen Arbor Art Association in Glen Arbor, MI, and serves as chair for the Visiting Artist program at The Old Art Building in Leland, MI. She has hosted many artists from around the country at her own home-spun artist retreat at The Provincial, an artist-run exhibition and project space she created in 2005. The Philosophy of Tea is the title of her recent solo show at Kenise Barnes Fine Art, in Larchmont, New York. Melanie has been awarded Visiting Artist positions at the American Academy in Rome in 2015 and 2018. She and her artist husband, Richard Kooyman, live and work in rural Michigan.
“Light is the main character in my work. I find magic in watching refractions move across a table holding just a few objects.
Composing a still life with the obvious identifiers – a bouquet, a bowl of fruit, domestic objects — what I want to give my viewer is that feeling of chasing light in a contemplative state of mind. I’m curious how light effects can make a chimera of things – a mutation – as if lifting the weight of what something is into something less knowable.
Cezanne’s idea of passing through objects is something I think about a lot. Even when the entire plane of one of my paintings is engaged in pattern, I’m going for the feeling of never-ending transparencies, passing through walls and hard surfaces, to keep the eye going, passing to the other side of a thing and to keep looking.
Interiors and garden motifs are reconstructed through ideology and memory, from halcyon days spent in island cottages and Roman villas. Flowers, which represent friendships and the women in my life, center most of my work. The presence of birds suggests curiosity and wonder, sometimes allegories of fragility, sometimes euphoria. I’m looking for visual lushness. By alternating tonal moods and vivid ornamentation I aim to convey sensations of consolation, longing and desire.”