Melissa Vogley Woods’ practice bounces back and forth between sculpture and painting, and she is often working on several pieces at once, all of them informing the others. I’m especially into her use of the scagliola plaster process, which she incorporates into a variety of 3D and 2D surfaces. Make sure to check out much more of her work at the links below, including a look at a video illustrating the scagliola process!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I live and work in Columbus, Ohio and I received my MFA 6 years ago. I am not young though, I am turning 50 this year! After earning my BFA in painting at the Kansas City Art Institute, I worked for myself; opening a store in the 90s and became a mural painter. I did this for 15 years, much of which coincided with being a single parent. I have always been active with my work and in my community curating and showing and learned much of what I know doing that. I teach very part time at various universities, currently at Denison, but my primary place of work is in my studio. My work crosses several mediums from painting to sculpture to video. My fun fact would be that I have spent the last 2 years perfecting a process that was virtually lost called Scagliola, a elusive plaster process founded in northern Italy in the 1600’s and have brought this process into my work.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
My mother was a pastel portrait artist and I grew up going to street fairs with her as her “helper” so I always knew that was what I wanted to do. And, I am really not good at anything else!
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I am always dealing with femme/woman issues, and my current work is the same. I am really interested in the hidden so my work is rooted in abstraction and a collage-like cut and stacking process. I work as a painter and a sculpture and the Scagliola is meant to reference the classical. My folded forms reference loss and hidden histories. My research is on historic oppression omission and erasure of woman’s narratives and the void that this creates. I want my work to be a little empty but also vast. My work has been pretty constant these last few years, while aesthetically they have shifted. They have become more complex and I feel like the sculpture and painting are moving closer to each other.
What is your process like?
I work between sculpture and painting, swinging between both to let each realm influence the other. It takes some mental gymnastics to move from the laborious craft of sculpture to the constant decision making of painting and I typically working on 8-10 pieces at once. I do a good deal of research that is some what invisible in the final product. My research gets me to the forms and situations that play out in my work. The research opens my ideas up and allows directions that are not intuitive to what I want to see or do. It creates a counter to my natural instincts.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
The Domitian Palace in Rome, The Rape of Proserpina by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, artist Christina Ramberg, Ed Clark, Arlene Schecht, Geta Bratescu.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I work best very early, getting up with the sun or before. I get my coffee and walk into my garage studio and I do not come back out until 1 when I make something to eat, I usually work 7am – 4pm. This is on days that I am not teaching. I usually can not have a studio day on the same days that I teach because I need a large chunk of time to be able to work.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Oh wow, this is a tough one. Honestly there is almost too much good advice to narrow it down. I read a lot of artist writings, most recently I read Faith Ringgold’s interview with Eleanor Munro 1977 very inspiring.
“This much I knew as soon as you feel comfortable that’s when It’s time to start over.”
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
Community is really important, I try to visit my friends studios who live in Columbus and elsewhere as often as I can. I love the conversation and it is great to hear peoples observations. I also try to be sure to make it out to as many talks and openings as I can. I am a believer in actively supporting each other, showing up is not that hard and it is a very effective way to help your community.
What is your studio like?
My studio is in a small garage, the loft part is for painting and half of the bottom is for sculpture. It is cozy but works out just fine. I have gotten really good at arranging and stacking and tossing anything unimportant.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I have a live/work space (my garage and basement), its perfect for me because I can roll into the studio as soon the sun is up and I can work straight though the day, this eliminates the studio costs as well as lunch or coffees on the go. It does require some discipline because of possible distractions, but you can get used to blowing off emails and ignoring the growing pile of laundry, I mean there’s always tomorrow!
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The fact that there is a huge hierarchy between NYC and LA and the rest of the country. This is very difficult to overcome. Being form Ohio and working from Ohio I see collectors from here buying only in NYC, I see institutions here focusing on artists, emerging artist and lectures from NYC. You need to show in NYC for anyone to take interest in you here. When I go to NYC everyone is pretty friendly and easy to meet most of the time so I am really not sure what is the root of this. But I have noticed some artist, critics and theorist come to give lectures in Columbus and seem to be dialing it in. It is odd and I don’t really get it, but thats how it is.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
Working in an unheated studio in an Ohio winter is pretty out there.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I teach as a part-time, adjunct or visiting Professor, I enjoy teaching and really value the community and it keeps me and my kids housed and fed!
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I waited 20 years to get my MFA and it was funded, so I did not accrue debt. It was a benefit to me personally, it was hard and confusing, but it was great because I really wanted to be there.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
Oh tough one, lets see I am most excited that I have be able to stay in the game. It is not an easy thing to do. When you realize this is all you will every do and there is no doubt about that its the greatest accomplishment.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I am! I am a member of the Mint Collective, and our programing has ranged from having studios, running a gallery space and working together on collaborative projects. I am also in a secret collective that organized exhibitions in unconventional spaces. I would tell you more, but it’s a secret!
What are you working on right now?
2 huge paintings on canvas, a few large scagliola pieces, a series of small paintings and some drawings in pastels, using my moms old pastels and this week computer work 🙂
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for your work! It takes platforms like this to break down hierarchies and allow make access.
The scagliola process is a little complicated, here’s a video if you want to know more.