My story is uniquely mine, yet it is also the universal story of the human condition.
I consider myself a storyteller. I’m not your typical storyteller, using words to spin my tales, though you will find words and text within the work. I shy away from the written word after being teased unmercifully for being unable to spell due to my dyslexia. Instead, I create a visual narrative using found objects, vintage newsprint, beeswax, my own photography and symbols to tell the tales of my experiences and what I have witnessed.
I first started visual storytelling at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, where I majored in fine art photography. It was there I was introduced to Dewane Michaels, Franesca Woodman, and Joseph Cornell. The use of symbolism I also discovered in college. Universal and religious symbols as a means to communicate fascinate me, and I have adopted them as my own. Mother Mary and The Bear have become frequent characters in the stories I tell of my experience as an adoptive mother. The Violin is a representation of the women in my life, often my mother or grandmother, sometimes myself but always feminine.
I also like to incorporate found and vintage objects to bring a sense of nostalgia and faded memories that my viewers can resonate with. One of my signature creative methods utilizes hot beeswax and is called "encaustic." The encaustic medium consists of natural beeswax and dammar resin, which is melted and applied to a hard surface with a brush or other tools. Each layer is reheated to fuse it to the previous layer. The wax also acts as an adhesive allowing me to add images at different layers, creating dimension within the work.
For as much as the stories I choose to tell are in direct response to what I have experienced, I’m not fool enough to believe that I am so unique that I am unrelatable. I tell my story of past traumas and mistakes because I know I could not be the only one to have felt so profoundly alone. If by telling my story, someone else feels connected, and thus less alone, I have succeeded in creating for someone else the comfort and connection I needed so deeply in my soul.
"I hope you find a connection that speaks to your soul, and inspires you through whatever you may be experiencing."
I'd like to think I’m past the darkest of days and feel in my soul I have moved into the light. Hopefully this is reflected in my more recent works. I now focus on the good and the life I want to build for myself.
That does not mean I don't still experience hardships that are beyond my control. Take Covid-19 for instance, like everyone else I have been affected – experiencing feelings of isolation, even disconnection from people and life’s daily rituals. In response, I've created art to express those feelings. This is my way of processing and making sense of the world around me. I find the world to be oversaturated with images and information. I crave a world with softer edges for my empathic self. Creating with black and white, or desaturated images, hot wax, and limiting my color palette aids in softening the harsh realities of life. I do this out of compassion and respect for myself and my audience.
My story's whole is uniquely mine, yet I have found that in its details are the same details of the human condition. I hope as the viewer you find a connection that speaks to your soul and inspires you through whatever you may be experiencing (even if it is just through something as simple as one of my comforting hand embroidered pillows). If you have a story of your own you would like to share or want to know more of what inspired a piece, please reach out and connect. I would love to hear from you. - Melissa
Melissa Porter has exhibited her handcrafted artwork in more than 30 specialty and prestigious art galleries nationwide. View a list of Melissa Porter's Gallery Showings.