Thursday, December 14, 2017

Melissa Matthews

the mixed media artist


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A study on the practice of child brides in parts of Africa inspired by a 2009 article featured in Essence magazine. Rather than clothing the girls in traditional African garb, I have clothed the characters in an old Euro-centric interpretation of African garb for the girls and European formal wear for the men. The visual of the young girls amidst their adult mates is meant to emphasise my perception of the practice as absurd. "Blushing Bride", left, is a solemn portrait of a young girl overly made up and frightened by her impending fate. "Stolen Moment", right, — a work that captures the odd father/lover/owner relationship dichotomy displayed in a marriage where one party is not yet old enough to be an equal partner.

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Emerging mixed media artist, Melissa A Matthews can be most accurately described as an American, who isn't so American and a Trinidadian who isn't so Trinidadian — a cultural synergy and perfect mosaic of the best of both worlds.

Born in Brooklyn, New York to Trinidadian parents, Matthews grew ingrained in her Trinidadian culture — food, music and the best of West Indian broughtupcy. She spent as much time as possible in Trinidad as a child and even more so as she embarked on adulthood. Her unique brand of mixed media and installation art and design are littered with references to Trinibagonian culture mixed with the urban edge of Brooklyn and Washington, DC along with the subtle flair of South African multiculturalism—all of these places she has once called home.

The petite woman has made a new and unpopular mode of artistic expression her forte — digital art, audio installations. "Digital art is basically using a computer program to do painting and audio installation involves similar techniques to what crime investigators use when doing illustrations of a victim's attacker. While my subjects are not suspects, I listen to people's descriptions of a profile and I draw based on what I hear and interpret from their audio. I am actually working on an audio project now and my depiction is the 'Jamette'. I am currently conducting interviews now in different parts of Trinidad and Tobago and I hope to display my work at a show in March 2013," Matthews said.

But "Jamette'" isn't the only major project for the San Fernando bred Howard University graduate. Amidst her raving repertoire is the "Bacchanalist". Consequently inspired by the Kerwin Dubois composed and sung 2012 Carnival soca release, Bacchanalist, her audacious artistic interpretation speaks fervently of a woman straddling the line of her own cultural divide accentuated by a vibrancy of colour and an unbelievable energy which is synonymous to Trinbagonian culture. "In Their Voices" and "Black Girl Pain" also echo a deep sense of emotional identity and introspection.

As an Afro-Trinidadian-American living in western society, Matthews' work also examines the practicality of the Occupied Movements that swept the US in the 2011-2012 era. "The Wedding Album", a satirical view of the practice of child brides, showcases her unique spin on the socio-economic and political issues of our time.

In addition to plying paintbrush as a painter and her easel as a sculptor, Matthews is a writer and hopes to sample the whole Carnival arena someday. "I love Carnival. I play mas every year in T&T. I would love to get involved with Kalicharran mas in the South in the future as most of my family is from San Fernando. The thing about art is that your destination as an artist is limitless. As a mixed media artist I get the freedom to explore all canvasses in the world of art. I am really excited about my show next year in Trinidad and I know that it will enlighten my Trini audience," she declared.

For the year so far, the 27-year-old has done one 150 pieces, all with their own story lines and sources of inspiration. "I want to capture people's perceptions in my work. I want to display different angles, different perspectives and different beliefs. I really love art and I began painting at the young age of 15. I still think I have a lot to contribute to this world as an artist and I know that I will make a difference someday," Matthews concluded with a knowing smile.