Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Featured Artist: Melissa Kulig


First of all, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us more about your background. From where did you receive your art training, and what do you do besides making art?

My name is Melissa Kulig. I have been making art since I was a child. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emmanuel College in 1989. For 10 years I was a graphic designer working for corporations and then for myself. I sold my business in 2001 and changed careers when I became unhappy with the limited amount of time I was able to spend in my art studio.

I’ve worked in Human Services since then as I found that working with people instead of computers suited me much better. My current job is at McLean Hospital. I’m Residential Counselor in a unit that cares for people who have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. My work in mental health has had some effect on my artwork.

Would you like to share some of your thoughts and inspirations on your latest distorted self-portraits in Victorian-era costume?

"What happens when a woman expresses rage?"
Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

My drawings seek to confront the notion of a woman’s appropriate behavior in society, and how the boundaries have shifted since the 19th century. Victorian society preferred its women to be passive, soothing, and ready to keep domestic peace. If not, they may have been labeled hysterical, mad, or disturbed, with potentially dire consequences.

Pinhole, 30"x23", graphite on paper, 2009.
Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

My distorted self-portraits in Victorian-era costume are drawn from a side of my emotional landscape that I have rarely let myself explore – an angry, contorted, and ugly place. Though drawn in the traditional medium of graphite on paper, they counter the ancient concept of portraiture as flattery and beautiful resemblances.

Elfin, 30"x23", graphite on paper, 2008.
Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

Exploring feminine rage through line, mark, shadow, and form, I discover a certain beauty in the making, and deep emotional connection to the subject, where the mask of perceived acceptability is lifted, and a new, more authentic beauty, in expressions normally suppressed, is revealed. It is my hope that these portraits let me embrace, in a new light, this dark, angry side of myself.

What's the intention behind dressing in Victorian costume for the self-portraits?

Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

As I previously described, I deal with parts of my personality that I initially reject. Being raised in a strict Catholic household I was taught that expressing rage and other uncomfortable emotions was not “lady-like.” In my self-portraits I present these expressions through drawing as a way to accept the aspects of myself that I’m too afraid to show in public. I draw myself distorted, enraged, and looking quite scary!

Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

I’m dressed in Victorian garb because I view the Victorians as the epitome of social decorum and polite, restrained society. In my costume I pretend to throw off these restrictions of behavior and unleash a backlash against the repressions and stereotypes of women of that era. In this way I connect with the feminist spirit that was beginning in the 19th century to my present feelings about feminism in our postmodernist age.

Could you tell us what techniques you use to create the drawings?

To create the drawings I begin with photos of me in Victorian dress.

Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

I use Photoshop to distort and manipulate them so that I become monstrous.

Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

The changed photos become my guide for drawing. Using all soft and hard pencils, as well as graphite powder, I layer, blend and smooth out the tones as is my style. The end result is meant to be mildly disturbing and “inappropriate” as portraits that do not flatter or enhance my natural appearance.

Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

Untitled Large Drawing, 52"x34", Graphite on paper, 2008.
Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

Are you planning any exhibitions of your work in the near future?

My next exhibit will be a part of the 2009 Art Institute of Boston’s MFA Graduate Thesis Show. My, and my 14 classmates’, artwork will be on display at the Main Gallery at 700 Beacon Street, Boston from Sunday, June 21st until Sunday, June 28th during regular gallery hours. The opening/closing reception and graduation ceremonial toast will be on Saturday, June 27th at 8pm.

Detail shot of Devil, large scale drawing, graphite on paper.
Image courtesy of Melissa Kulig.

Do you offer any art classes?

I have been and will continue to teach classes in drawing, painting, and mixed media/collage through the Brookline Adult Education program and the New Art Center in Newton. I also teach semi-privately in my art studio at 80 Border St., in East Boston. In September I have been hired by the Boston Architectural College to teach drawing to their undergraduate student population.

Would you like to share your contact info with our readers? Do you have website(s) for interested readers to learn more about your work?

I can be reached through email at: mak06@verizon.net for more information about classes and exhibits. I have a blog that displays my current and past work at: www.mixedmediamaven.blogspot.com. My future plans include creating a professional website and being accepted to the Drawing Center in New York City.