Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Sclafani.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
In 2008, I wrote a list of personal and professional goals that I wanted to achieve in 1, 2, 5, 10, and 15 years. I’ll spare you all the details of what my 21-year-old self wanted, but straddling the two columns was written: “live somewhere new every two years for the next ten years.”
I grew up just outside NYC and graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture in 2009. From there I moved to Minnesota to complete a residency at Franconia Sculpture Park. I moved back to New York this time on the Vermont border to live and work at Salem Art Works for a few years. I spent six months in Colorado participating in a residency at Elsewhere in Paonia before moving to Brooklyn. I worked for artists and fab shops, shared a studio with some wonderful people at Wayfarers, ran a marathon with my dog and sometimes cleaned apartments or guest bartended. I watched countless sunrises and sunsets on my roof and rode my bike all over three boroughs. I moved back to Colorado for grad school in Boulder and finished this past May with my MFA in Sculpture and Post-Studio Practices. I made some art I love, some I hate and made some amazing friends. In the summers I would travel to the UP of Michigan to work with the Visit Center Artist Camp and have seen a lot of the rural Southwest with the Art & Rural Environments Field School.
My ten years of traveling is up and this fall I moved to begin my chapter of calling Phoenix home.
Please tell us about your art.
I primarily make sculpture and performances. I grew up pretty competitive with running, dancing, and rowing and those physical experiences have infiltrated my practice oftentimes creating performances or sculptures that really push my body to its limit. I’ve been making objects through acts of performance that push to see the threshold of my own strength and where that line is.
I read a lot of news and contemporary feminist theory and often make socially and politically driven art. I think people forget how to be compassionate and think of others and instead label and categorize people without acknowledging their humanity. I find that systems and institutions often decide and enforce the labels and the norms that are followed blindly and passed down from generation to generation.
I want people to stop and question. To think about the humanity in others. To not blindly follow a status quo but to take a minute and think about the hows and whys.
What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
Each generation of artists and each individual artist has their own set of opportunities and setbacks and today’s conditions are no different. I think creating spaces that allow for unfiltered art to be exhibited and talked about is a great way for a city to promote dialogue and move forward.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I just deinstalled work from a show here and in Colorado and am getting ready to ship a sculpture to Missouri! My website has completed work, and I post what’s going on in the studio on Instagram.
I have a few fun projects in the works so stay tuned!