I love paint. I love pencils, pastels, paper and glue. I love to make marks and arrange them, like a musician composes a song…
...like a choreographer organizes dancers
...like a chef combines flavors.
Inspiration for my paintings comes from many places, but it often happens right in the studio, sparked by play. That’s what’s happening on the surface, anyway. Below the surface is a whole different story. The realm of the subconscious is only accessible when a painter allows for chance in her work. Taking risks, experimenting, and playing is a part of the painting process that thrills me. This is where I discover surprises and unexpected imagery. This the stuff of dreams, metaphor, magic. It unfolds when I am courageous and let the painting tell me what it wants. We have a conversation. I ask, “this?” and it answers, “that.” Often, I don’t know what the painting will become until it’s close to completion…I gently guide, and respond to what appears. In many ways, my painting practice mirrors my life and teaches me.
This process is a stark contrast to the way I learned to paint, and to how I painted during my early career as an illustrator. That was all about accuracy and precision. My painting process has taught me that life is to be experienced, not controlled. As a colleague reminds me, “more painty, less thinky.”
Occasionally, an artist will turn from the path of commercial achievement to forge a new and uncertain path. Susan Melrath is such an artist. Nearly a decade ago, lack of creative freedom and a desire for a deeper sense of self prompted Melrath to leave a successful career in illustration to explore the enigmatic realm of abstract art. This journey involved a process of gradual self-discovery through which mystery, metaphor, and identity ultimately found expression in her work.
What had been buried inside her for decades, in her personal and professional life, erupted, and the solid ground on which she had been standing quaked and catapulted her into a world of wonder for which her heart had longed since she was a child. Her adolescent reverence for the natural beauty of the world and enchantment with her dreams were now coming back to life and appearing in stunning imagery, shape and color.
An equally accomplished teacher, Melrath has led countless others to their own creative rebirths through a transformative art-instruction program that attracts aspiring and professional artists from all over the world. The “openness, generous spirit, and guiding heart” (to quote one program participant) that define Melrath’s approach to mentoring also imbue her own art-making, in which courage, risk, experiment, and play stand in stark contrast to her former career as an illustrator of precisely rendered images.
John Chambless, local staff writer for the Chester County Press observed the following about Melrath’s work:
“Melrath’s abstract, mixed-media panels are elaborately layered, containing just enough recognizable shapes and points of reference to allow viewers to get their bearings.
Visually unpacking these paintings, could take a while, as time spent with them reveals their elements gradually. Of course, you could regard them as bold graphic statements and leave it at that, but to Melrath’s credit, there is a voluminous amount of thought behind each piece.
Melrath’s paintings are exquisitely rendered, with a depth of pigments that draws you nearer to inspect how they’re put together. She’s careful, however, to let the sometimes ragged edges of inspiration show. You’ll feel like you’re discovering the meanings right along with her.”
Indeed, Melrath’s paintings intrigue and captivate. They display a gorgeous spontaneity and inventiveness, even when the artist employs an underlying grid structure but leaves just enough of the scaffolding intact to preserve a sense of visual arrangement while simultaneously creating a delicate tension between order and abstraction. Mystifying textures, glyphic scrawls, organic and geometric shapes, and colors that seem to reinvent color—these and other riches surface and recede like half-buried treasures from within interior worlds, offering glimpses of Melrath’s surrender to subconscious and intuitive impulses before she allows discernment to have its say.
EDGE Professional Development Program for Visual Artists; Seattle, WA
Hussian School of Art; Philadelphia, PA
University of Dijon; Dijon, France
Oxford Area High School; Oxford, PA
Freelance Illustration: Clients included IBM, Simon and Schuster, Time Life Books, Miami Herald, JC Penney
2019 Oxford Arts Alliance; Oxford, PA; “Abstract Thinking;” solo show
2018 Bradford Gallery; CCAA; West Chester, PA; three person show
2014 Bluestone Fine Art Gallery; Philadelphia, PA; solo show
2012 Lucia Douglas Gallery, Bellingham, WA
2011 Sightline Institute, Seattle, WA
2008 City of Woodinville, City Hall, Woodinville, WA
2018 National Juried Show; 2nd Place Award; Juror Al Gury
2016 National Juried Show; Juror Jennifer Samet
Oxford Arts Alliance, Oxford, PA
2015 National Juried Show; Juror Dr. J. Susan Issacs
Oxford Arts Alliance, Oxford, PA
2014 Inflorescence; Kirkland Arts Center; Kirkland, WA
2013 Simon Mace Gallery, Port Townsend, WA
TK Corridor Gallery, Seattle, WA
2012 Centennial Center Gallery, Summer Art Exhibit, Kent WA
Lucia Douglas Gallery, Bellingham, WA
Columbia City Gallery, Seattle, WA
2011 UnPlugged, ArtsWest Gallery Seattle, WA
Driven to Abstraction, UpFront Gallery, Issaquah, WA
Flora and Fauna, EAFA Gallery, Seattle Design Center, Seattle, WA
2010 Portraits, Ida Culver House, Seattle, WA
EAFA 35th Annual Exhibition; Bellevue, WA
Along the EDGE, MV Arts Center; Maple Valley, WA
To the Edge, ArtEAST Gallery; Issaquah, WA
Safe Harbor, Port Angeles Fine Arts Center; Port Angeles, WA
2017 C. X. Carlson Trust Teaching grant
2016 Oxford Mainstreet Inc. exterior mural
Oxford Mainstreet, Inc.; Oxford Area Foundation
2014 Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT
NLAPW; Shirley Holden Helberg Grant
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
Oxford Mainstreet, Inc.; Oxford, PA mural
Swedish Art Collection; Seattle WA
Group Health, Seattle
Heathman Hotel, Kirkland, WA
Tacoma General Hospital; Tacoma, WA