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Art & Life with Melinda Laszczynski

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melinda Laszczynski.

Melinda, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in Pittsburgh, PA and grew up in Cleveland, OH, an amazingly underrated city, surrounded by art. My parents took me to the museum a lot, signed me up for art classes, and I loved to draw. My grandfather was a music teacher who also painted and took photographs. I had a really hard time in high school until I was accepted into a vocational program called Commercial Art, where we made work for half of a school day for two years. Once I realized that I could study art in college, I gained a lot of focus and worked on a portfolio. I fell in love with painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and our department took trips to the Whitney Biennial and Prospect 1 in New Orleans.

I had amazing professors that really helped to expand my idea of what painting could be. Two years after graduation I was feeling restless. I decided to look into graduate programs, and one of my professors had a friend who taught at the University of Houston. He said it was a great city for art and recommended that I apply. I hated (still mostly hate) country music and had never considered living in Texas. I moved here with a car full of stuff not knowing anyone or having ever visited. My car was broken into and towed, and I was terrified of the highways. It got better and the program was exactly what I needed- wide open space and time to dedicate and study with supportive faculty. I started making weird sculptures and my color palette became saturated. My partner, John, and I met in the program and I like the sun much more than snow, so I decided to stay in Houston after graduation.

I started teaching as an adjunct and bartending. I would teach a six-hour watercolor class, take a nap, and then work a six-hour closing shift on Saturdays. It was a brutal schedule that allowed me to have tons of studio time and be in the classroom. I was a resident in the Artist Studio Program at Lawndale Art Center in 2016-17 and made a large, accumulative installation. Last year, I took on a full-time faculty position in a small community that wasn’t the right fit. That experience made me realize just how great Houston is, and reaffirmed my dedication to teaching. I recently moved back to Houston and am a full-time faculty member at Houston Community College. I’m ecstatic to be back with an amazing team of colleagues and friends, and have access to tacos 24/7. I have a studio at Box13 Artspace in the East End, which is an artist-run space that hosts exhibitions, and fun events like Halloween parties and themed fundraisers. John and I live with our cat Agnes who has a wonky eye and is the best cat ever.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I’m primarily a painter, and I make painting-paintings, ceramics, watercolors, sculptures, installations, and videos. I’ve always loved experimenting with new materials and processes. They tend to overlap and influence one another. I’ve noticed that since I started making ceramics, my watercolors have gotten looser and more abstract as I’m now thinking about the paint like glaze. My ceramics work is a natural extension of my paintings. Clay is a balance of alchemy and anticipation, a push and pull between manipulation and the (at times merciless) nature of the material. It holds onto that memory of manipulation, whether a touch of the hand or a glaze, a hazy but persistent layer till the end. It’s romantic, made of literal earth, fire, and minerals.

When I make things, I think of cakes rising and falling, bodies pushing against one another, and new growth pushing through organic forms. I pile on layers of texture and color until they spill out and fight for air. I’m drawn to absurd objects and materials, like lenticular prints and cheap inflatables. I am also inspired by surroundings, and have come to realize that place and time, and how I try to make sense of these, is important. When I look back at different bodies of work, I see a record of experiences and responses, especially over the last couple of years. Overall, my studio practice is playful and tactile.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
A lack of time and money will always be the top two challenges for artists.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I have a solo show coming up soon at Front Gallery that opens on Saturday, December 1 from 6-8 pm. The show is called “Swoon” and is sort of a love letter to place and material. I’m showing new ceramic sculptures and abstract watercolors that I’m really excited about! Galleri Urbane in Dallas, TX also represents my work and will be showing some ceramics at the Miami Art Fair. I’ve shown with Cardoza Fine Art (now Pablo Cardoza Gallery) a lot in Houston and at Houston Contemporary recently. My Instagram handle is @mlaszczynski and my feed is mostly art and cats. I try to keep my website updated- its www.melindalaszczynski.com.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ronald Llewellyn Jones (Lawndale Art Center installation)
Other images courtesy the artist

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