The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 16, 2004


Vibrant library exhibit relieves winter chill

Huddling in a cozy armchair with a good book at the Gleason Library represents one way you can escape the arctic freeze. You can also stroll through the library and travel vicariously to the distant and warmer places captured in the photo-art of Melody Winnig. You can visit with a flamenco dancer in Spain, a man with tattoos in South Florida, or two men at a café in Brazil. "I like people; I like movement," she says. "I like market scenes. I love the street. I spend a lot of time just wandering in other environments: dusty streets, carnivals, bazaars, anywhere there is a lot of action.

The show entitled "Traveling Beauty" runs through February and includes 34 pieces of original photo-art. They are priced from $150 to $650. Winnig's multimedia approach involves painting over a photograph, perhaps having it scanned, sometimes adding in other pieces for a collage effect, and having the final piece scanned again. She then has the digital file enlarged, printed, and framed. Most of the show includes her own photographs, although she does work with other people's pictures.

Turning an experiment into a career

Winnig, born and bred in Wisconsin, acquired her love for travel and for photography from her father, a pilot and a hobbyist photographer. She started taking pictures as a kid, and never stopped. She earned a B.A. in French from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a Master's in Communication from the State University in New York. Professionally, she applied her language and communication skills to enable her to travel. She worked for an importer in Afghanistan, which enabled her to travel there and to India. For the past ten years, the artist, also able to speak Spanish, has done Internet consulting for publishers in Spain and Latin America. Her travels include Iran, Egypt, and Yugoslavia. About five years ago she began experimenting with her 35-millimeter photographs from her travels.

"I must have a zillion photographs," she says. "I found by printing them on a matte finish, not glossy, paint would hold," says Winnig. "I paint with water colors, not diluted, but thick out of the tube."

She sold her first piece in 1999 in Wellesley, and her career took off. Last year she sold twenty pieces and participated in fifteen shows, including solo shows at many Cambridge and Boston businesses. This past fall her work appeared at the National Center of the Arts in Mexico City. Meanwhile she continues to experiment. "Sometimes I mix the paint with sand or corn silk or collage in bits of canvas and fabric," says Winnig, who works out of her home in Wayland. "I like things that that are layered."

The entire process takes a few weeks, particularly when she is working with a photo from a client and must share proofs and make changes. Currently, she does more work on commission; about 25% of her current jobs involve building on client photographs. She has even colorized archival photographs, adding color and layers to old black-and-white pictures.

Many of Winning's photographs date back ten or fifteen years. Her colors reflect her memories and impressions at the time. Her images of Iran and Yugoslavia date back before the wars, and therefore her impressions are positive and beautiful. She brightens a Guatemalan slum with brilliant colors. More recently, however, she has had to deal with a darker reality.

"Sometimes I have to respond emotionally to what's happening in the world," she says. "After September 11, I got very involved in a lot of shows that were artists' responses." She participated in and curated a show in 2001 in South Hampton, NY, that presented "Sufi and Muslim Artists Respond to 9/11." She showed her work in "A Nation Mourns and Artists Respond" at the Fitchburg Art Museum in 2002.

Winnig has two pieces called "WarFlowers" on display at the Gleason. She has layered rose petals she describes as "tears" over headlines about the war with Iraq. "Art has been an outlet to what I can do in the world that seems out of control," says Winnig. From the pieces at the Gleason, one can see Winnig portrays the world in a positive way that lifts one's spirits. It's easy to forget the cold outside.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito