Brazilian artist Melissa Meier is internationally recognized for her evocative 3-dimensional installations, found-object sculptures, collages and photography. In her current series “SKINS”, Meier has created sculptural clothing hybrids, utilizing natural materials such as leaves, stones, fur, eggshells, wheat, rice, crystals, scales, sticks, feathers, pinecones and shells.
Inspired by Brazilian Carnival and Native American skin-walkers, her wearable constructions blend female empowerment with a self-created mythology, developed around the idea of ancient cultures of female warriors, exemplifying strength, beauty and unity of life lived in harmony with the elements. Her warrior women are breathtakingly sensual, while radiating a searing combination of purity and power.
Meier states, “At first I was inspired by the legends of indigenous people and how they used the skins of animals to transform into them, creating a bridge between the human and animal worlds. But as my work matured, I became equally interested in the future of fashion as an extreme form of kinetic sculpture.”
The costumes are developed into moveable, wearable sculptures that are brought to Life as performance art works, serve as independent sculptures and in their final documented form as archival fine art photographs.
This is where the work creates a bridge to the present and allows us to connect with and find ourselves reflected in her images of hidden, treasured cultures, heroines and spirit guides, imagined and real.
For the "Head" series, Meier constructed a 250 pound head made entirely out of brown packing paper and clear tape. Originally used to cover and protect an entire household of family items for a move overseas, the paper and tape's 5,000 mile journey ended with the rumpled and disparate parts being repurposed into a peaceful whole, photographed in its new natural and suburban settings.
In the "GLASS-EYED" series Meier is exploring the power and effect of handmade, static masks in both abstract and commonplace settings. This new work is a deviation from her earlier mask pieces that she created during her six month stay in Japan in 1991 where she became quite inspired by Japanese Noh masks. Meier found it refreshing to come back to masks as a subject after almost a 30 year hiatus.
"Sometimes themes require significant time to gestate and that’s what I find so intriguing about creation – just when you think you’ve explored all sides, a new personal discovery is made. Masks are a form of disguise, ritual, entertainment, and even protection, and I wanted to expand my exploration by sculpting oversized masks out of clay and bringing them to life using glass eyes, paint, and human hands, all in a variety of settings," says Meier.
Ironically, in Meier's staged scenes, her masks are used as a form of expressed emotion rather than concealed disguise. Further, depending on how the variables work together, she is often surprised how each mask takes on its own personality, its own story. Although the masks are not sculpted realistically, they appear to breath and live, whether a person is posing behind them or not.
A doily is an ornamental mat of lace that is laid under crockery and decorative objects in order to protect the fine wood from scratches - its openwork allows the surface of the underlying object to show through. In the "LACED" series, Meier has chosen vintage doily patterns and has superimposed them on the faces of female subjects. The shapes of the faces, expressions, and attitudes of the women dictate the choice of doily.
Doily patterns are the ultimate symbol of elegance, femininity and propriety, yet one wonders if they also represent the repression of women. Meier reminds us of stuffy tea parties in the Victorian era, where women’s outfits alone were more than constricting.
In Meier's works, the doily is violently embroidered onto the face; often the more dainty and intricate the pattern, the more aggressive the mask appears. Through this skin, women with attitude stare back. While Meier has photographed her chosen subjects like police mug shots, the women are not weak and afraid. They are empowered and ready to fight.
Throughout history, warriors have used facial masks, tattoos, and body painting in order to intimidate and threaten their enemy. Even comic book super heroes don masks to intimidate. Here the doily-clad women are transformed into masked warriors. And in this case, with their own cut skin.
The "CONSTRUCTION" series confronts social and spiritual issues by incorporating antique objects with vintage photographs into narrative assemblage. The constructions explore aspects of femininity, the perceived, projected, expected, and the actual... and are often conceived through memories, dreams and fears. The works often include articles that Meier finds in flea markets, antique stores and trash bins.
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Skins, Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles, CA
Laced, Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles, CA
Laced, Bleicher Gallery La Brea, Los Angeles, CA
James Gray Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA
James Gray Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA
Revelations, Foundation, Venice, CA
Revelations, Gallery 57, Cambridge, MA
“Love” “Marriage” “Hearth”, from the Goddess Series, Gallery 70, Worcester, MA
Melissa Meier, Barbara Singer Fine Art, Cambridge, MA
Assemblages of the Imagination, Annext Gallery, New York, NY
Olhos Livres, State of Sao Paulo Pinacotheca, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Olhos Livres, Espaço Cutural Yazigi, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Olhos Livres, Casa Do Olhar, Nucleo De Artes Plasticas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Selected Duo Exhibitions
Skin, Melissa Meier and Marisa Caichiolo
bG Gallery at Bergamot Station, SM, CA
Getty Foundation Initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Selected Group Exhibitions
Dress Rehearsal, Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, CA
La Vie, L'Amour, Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles, CA
Love Songs, Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles, CA
Striking Portraits, bG Gallery at Bergamot Station, SM, CA
Combines, bG Gallery at Bergamot Station, SM, CA
Grayscale Wonderland, bG Gallery at Bergamot Station, SM, CA
Dirty Minds: Life on Earth, bG Gallery at Bergamot Station, SM, CA
Spectrum Gestalt, bG Gallery at Bergamot Station, SM, CA
Circle of Logic, bG Gallery at 1431 Ocean Ave, SM, CA
Bold Nostalgia, bG Gallery at 1431 Ocean Ave, SM, CA
Anniversary Show, Bleicher Gallery, La Brea, LA, CA
Pilot Test, Bleicher Gallery La Brea, Los Angeles, CA
Portraits of the Fallen Memorial, Terrel Morre Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Weight, Wire, Sway: Los Angeles, Keller Williams Larchmont, Los Angeles, CA
Days of Wine and Roses, Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles, CA
Carporale/Bleicher Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Iconoclassic, Bleicher/Golightly Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
2005/6 Twisted Christmas, James Gray Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA
Contact, Studio 18 LA, West Hollywood, CA
Material Revelations: Variations on Collage, Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, MA
Blue, Lowell Street Gallery, Cambridge, MA
The Home Show, John Slade Ely House, New Haven, CT
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Gallery, Boston, MA
Fort Point Arts Community, Boston, MA
Gallery 70 Group Show, Worcester, MA
Audio Arts, New York, NY
As Marionetes, Galeria Artes Applicada, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Mini Biennial Show, Chapel Art Show, Sao Paulo, Brazil
The Box Show, K & E Gallery, New York, NY
Woman’s Work, Annext Gallery, New York, NY
Exposiçao de Artes Plasticas, Renato Magalhaes Gouveia Gallery, SP, Brazil
Show & Tell, Zimmer Children’s Museum
(The art of Time, Harmony, Vision, Knowledge and Building)
Venice Art Walk & Auction
Artlink @ Sotheby’s, on-line exhibitions and auctions
Artlink @ Sotheby’s, exhibitions and auctions in Tel Aviv, Vienna, and Chicago
Artcetera to benefit the AIDS Action Committee, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA
Selected Public Collections
Safra Bank, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Illustrations for the New York Times Book Review (covers), Washington Post, Time, Fortune, Discover, Penthouse,
MTV and VH1
Melissa Meier's work confronts social and spiritual issues by incorporating mixed media sculpture into narrative assemblage. She is constantly working with new processes and structure, for example, with her “Laced” series, she photographed mug shot female portraits in natural light. With wood putty and graphite, the photographic surfaces are re-rendered and then dramatically altered with incised lace patterns. With a feeling similar to the Maori warrior facial tattoos, at once sexy and intimidating, the portraits are created out of a symbol of elegance, femininity and ironically Victorian repression. Meier's latest work entitled “Skins” furthers female portraiture, this time using natural elements such as leaves, feathers, stones, egg shells, pinecones, sticks, sponges, sea shells, scales and fur. Tribal ritual or the future of fashion, the “Skins” series asks the question: is there a difference?
Meier spent most of her childhood in Brazil. She received a B.A. from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She has exhibited her work in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and was chosen by Sotheby's for their Young International Artists group show and auction in Tel Aviv, Vienna and Chicago. Most recently, in Los Angeles, she has shown at Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, Bleicher Golightly Gallery, Caporale/Bleicher Gallery and James Gray Gallery at Bergamot Station.