On select afternoons, we are showcasing an individual artist recognized for their unique voice, ideas and process. Once a month, a featured artist will be selected by Rebecca Locke, a New York City-based artist and curator, who develops collaborative and artist-led projects.
If you’ve been invited into anyone’s home, whether you’ve been there before or not, you’ll have a sense of the familiar. It’s a place that resonates, yet is unknown and private. Melissa Browder Beck’s practice is based on the familiar objects and space of the home. Through her work Melissa transforms everyday objects: dishes, towels, appliances and even food—bread for instance—into unique objects, infused with a sense of the familiar. The installation Caked On—a life size replica of her own family’s Californian suburban kitchen, was recreated by the artist with every surface and object coated in thick paint. From the stove top to tiled countertops, cabinets and the dishes in the sink—objects were frozen in place under a thick layer of nostalgic monotone green, and viewers were invited to feel the objects and experience the sense of space.
On moving from the West Coast to New York City, Melissa first encountered the thickly painted surfaces commonly seen in subway stations and old apartments—something she had not previously seen in interior spaces. This and her own home, her brownstone apartment in Brooklyn began to influence her practice. Her new works and sculptures utilize the physical elements of her apartment. In this way her home has become not merely a place where artwork is displayed, rather it has become part of the work. Browder Beck, as a proponent of experimental art, continues to develop a new and innovative style of site-specific art that she has named Graft Art. The essence of Graft Art is that the artist uses what is already there, something that already exists, to make new work.
After completing her first Graft Art piece, the installation Breadiator—a radiator stuffed with slices of white bread—Beck invited other artists into her home to create graft artwork using the features of her apartment. In this way, the artist’s hand and vision, their vein of work, has been grafted into the apartment space.
Melissa Beck as artist/innovator has transitioned into artist/curator. The first exhibition of Graft Art, apARTment #1, a new concept, shown as recently as April 2015, featured six artists. Laura Hinely captured quiet light of everyday objects in domestic spaces. Yasunari Izaki—whose practice explores the urban dwellers relationship to nature—created an installation The Grass is Always Greener—a wooden side table on which fresh grass grew.
And so, apARTment #1 was both home and gallery space, bringing the viewer outside of the white box—the gallery—and into a home. The next exhibition in the series: apARTment #2 will open in Brooklyn on July 10, further details at the bottom of this article.
Melissa Browder Beck is an artist and curator based in Brooklyn, NY. She grew up in Los Angeles and San Diego and received her BA in Studio Art from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2008. She studied for her MFA in sculpture at Pratt Institute, and has exhibited work in San Diego at Sushi Gallery, Keller Gallery, and Art San Diego and in New York City at SOHO20 Gallery, Lorimoto Gallery, and with Storefront Art Walk 2013. In 2015 Melissa became a Spark and Echo Artist in Residence, creating a series of sculptural, video, and performative works exploring the human struggle around what she calls “Disposable Commitments”. She is the Gallery Coordinator at Redeemer W83, founder of Graft Art and curator of the apARTment exhibition series in New York.
Something about the home is fragile and fleeting but deeply foundational and essential. Melissa Browder Beck is interested in the objects and spaces themselves, but also the routine, comfort, and stability they represent to us. We can feel this through a familiar towel hung above the sink, the grooves in a countertop, or the smell of certain foods. Feeling comfort through familiarity and routine over years of engaging in specific activities is a universal human experience. We find comfort in their dependability. We have an innate desire for belonging and place, essentially for home, and home that will last. In some sense when we leave home or it leaves us, we are merely in search of another home. Yet even the homes we create here on earth do not last in both physicality and sentimentality. This is a fascinating conflict, that we seek the comfort of consistency but deal with the inevitability of change. It’s through the altering of familiar objects and spaces that Melissa is able to begin making sense of this.
The next graft Art show apARTment #2 is in July 2015:
July 10-11, 2015
Fri 6-9pm reception
*performance by Julie Rooney at 7pm both days
171 Waverly Ave #1
G or C train to Clinton/Washington