The Artist's Gaze: Melinda Whitmore
What compels you to the specific women you choose to paint and sculpt?
In my sculpture process, I rarely work from models. These women are all trapped in my head and I’m eager to help them escape.
When do you know you have made a significant connection to your subject and what does that feel or look like from your perspective?
I look for rhythms within my work, implied movement that is both obvious and subtle, as well as an elegant geometry that finds its way to the surface forms and composition. I don’t begin my work with these intentions but when they make themselves known to me in the process, I know I’m closer to unlocking the imagery/idea that I’m attempting to set free.
Tell us about a strong reaction you have received to your work and the impact you sense it has made on the subject, viewer or the greater cultural landscape.
Sculpture is such a tactile medium and it’s difficult to not have the viewer physically feel what I’m feeling when I sculpt. When people have a physical response in wanting to touch my work or when they question what my materials are, then I know I’ve pushed the forms and surface quality enough to impact people’s perception/attention of an otherwise inanimate object into a dynamic and engaging image.
My paintings are more about emotional responses as opposed to physical. I had several people come up to me at an opening, recognizing me from my self portrait “The Game”- where I painted myself post-cry. They all apologized to me and felt so sad for me, asking if I was okay and hoping I feel better. After much assurance that I was indeed quite content, it’s nice to know that the most prominent of emotional responses to my paintings are of empathy and self reflection.
What is it about your personal journey that has brought your gaze to focus so deeply on women.
Painting and sculpture is how I communicate my reaction and experiences of the world around me so it’s ultimately an act of autobiography. I log my grief and joy, success and frustration, curiosity and confusion, introversion and extroversion all through these three dimensional footnotes and/or chromatic annotations.
Why this visual dialogue? What do you hope to accomplish through your work?
I hope to pull people back into their own heads, find some introspection, if only for a passing moment. Tapping into the subconscious that doesn’t require screens or sounds or animation or noises means that it’s possible to give people some pause, and to reflect a little more on the world around them and what role they play within it.
How does your subject make a change in your artist's gaze?
It’s a part of the process that’s both exciting and terrifying for me in that the work always takes on a life of its own whether I want it to happen or not. I have to respect the potential for the dialogue to change from my original intention. Sometimes this takes me to places in my work that I hadn’t expected to visit and I like the element of uncertainty to contrast with how controlling I do try to be within my creative process.
Tell us about your current series or work and how it may be different from the work submitted for the show.
My current work is in no way a departure from my aforementioned autobiography, but rather an even clearer view into my present sentiments and reveries. My sculptures tend to be more anonymous in nature, seeing that they are indeed figures from my own imagination. I recently finished a double self portrait in oil at age 43 and age 6. Although the imagery of self portraiture can oftentimes be perceived as more illustrative due to is deflective meaning, both portraits within my painting occupy the same space and the same light, thereby challenging the element of time. This asks the viewer to think beyond the physical nature of the painting to delve deeper into the psychological aspect I myself am seeking to understand. For me, “Growth Rings” represents an epiphany of adulthood. When you are no longer someone’s child, the loss of both parents thrusts you into a place that, for me, was one of unwilling acceptance.