Melissa Walter is a friendly soul we have known since we opened Little Dame in 2015, the same year that Walter quit her full-time gig creating illustrations for NASA to pursue a career as an Artist. Melissa attended the University of Rhode Island where she received her BFA. She later tried out living in other cities with her partner, Travis, like Kansas City and Venice Beach before they eventually nestled in San Diego. Although she doesn’t work full-time for NASA anymore. she does work for them on occasion and she finds that part of her work and aesthetic a bountiful supply of inspiration for new projects.
Starting in 2015 we have watched her work transform from geometrical creations with multiple levels of depth and direction that utilize Walter’s signature techniques like stippling, shading, color blocking, even embossing the surface, to pieces that are larger than life . Over the years Melissa’s transition into installations with her displays at Teros Gallery, Bread and Salt, and 1805 Gallery we experienced more sensory-submerging pieces. These installations as well as her career with Nasa have started conversations about dark matter, black holes, the cosmos and existence itself. Walter’s piece she created for KAABOO was monumental in size, impact, and was commissioned to be rebuilt in Texas for another KAABOO. The popular black and white triangle structure was what Melissa considered her first real sculpture.
One afternoon in May we visited her current work space inside of ICE Gallery attached to Bread and Salt, where Walter has been continuously working on an installation including thousands of tetrahedrons. She opened her studio to anyone who wanted to volunteer and help her fold and create these tetrahedrons for a few months. We talked with her as she attached the tetrahedrons to the wall that already held many of the shapes in white, making us feel small near the tall windows in the cavernous white room; we are eager to see the finished installation. There was no end in sight for this installation, but we now know that the opening of this show at ICE Gallery in Barrio Logan will be June 29th 1-4pm, come see it with us!
Speaking with the gem of a space babe in her element brought some insightful pieces of motivation we would like to share. Here is a quick Q and A with Melissa Walter.
LD: Do you feel like San Diego is a conducive city to be a visual Artist?
MW: I didn’t come to San Diego specifically to be an artist. I think it is a place that allowed me what I needed in order to make art. Once I did start getting into the art scene and meeting everybody, I was pretty stoked on the art scene here. You know, it is a small town and because of that it is pretty easy to know and get connected to everyone. Everyone is pretty supportive, like you guys. If you start creating and you are doing something that people gravitate towards, then it is really easy to make connections.
LD: A lot of people and Artists find social media to be a hub for competition, distractions, and unhealthy comparisons. What advice do you have for artists?
MW: “I don’t know! I need advice too! My advice would be, “Get back to work.'' The reality is is that if you are a creative person you are going to make the work and either nobody sees it or everyone sees it. And I think that is why artists have less financial opportunities than most career paths. This is the most stressed I have ever been but this is also the most rewarded I have ever been.
LD: You have a lot of projects going on simultaneously and it makes us curious, do you reach out to people for these projects or do they reach out to you at this point?
MW: At this point it is people reaching out to me, and that is because I put in a lot of effort. I show up, meet people, I put myself out there and I keep those connections in a positive way. As a result when people are planning projects, they think of me.
I do reach out to opportunities outside of San Diego. I get rejected but I don’t stop trying. I still keep applying but you get opportunities more face to face with people by participating in a community. When I first started I said yes to every opportunity. I have now figured out what is the right fit for me.
LD: We saw your recent show at Visual Gallery, the new work was so good and the frames were gorgeous! Where do you have your framing done?
MW: I have my frames made at Wonka Gallery, they get it, they understand and appreciate artists.
LD: Where do you hope to show your work? What is your goal?
MW: I hope to show my work in other cities. I am showing work in Tijuana, it is my first international show at a gallery named La Caja Galleria which opened May 31st. I am also going to be showing my work in Copenhagen for The Noysky project, Empedocle’s Ghost at KRÆ Syndicate, exploring science and mysticism’s forgotten relationship. The opening reception will be July 4th from 5-8 pm and will remain open to the public until July 11th. The Artist talk will be July 9th at 6 pm.
I dream of doing a show in a big institution someday and some permanent public works too, any place, any city is exciting. I am also really interested in doing an artist residency and this has motivated me to talk and write about my work.
Basically show up for people and friends, make face-to-face connections, all the while creating artwork that is meaningful to you and impacts others. Sounds easy enough, right? Thank you, Melissa, we love you!