Franklinton has long been touted as becoming a new hot arts community in Columbus, but may people have trouble imagining the transformation of current vacant buildings and empty warehouses into something of creative and artistic value.
Melissa Vogley Woods is one local artist who is assisting in opening eyes to that potential. She is currently working on the second exhibition in a series that combines vacant living spaces with temporary art exhibitions, where the home serves not only as the gallery space, but also a part of the exhibit itself.
We recently spoke with Melissa for a Q&A session about her background, her current projects, and what sort of inspiration she finds in the Columbus arts community.
Q: First, can you tell us a bit about your personal background as an artist?
A: I am from Columbus (Northside!) and went to Northland High School as well as Fort Hayes for fine arts. My mother is a local portrait artist and I sort of grew up in the business. I was one of those dirty rugrats that prowled around all the craft shows “helping” her out on the weekends. I got my BFA in painting at the Kansas City Art Institute and eventually made my way back to Columbus. At 25 I opened my shop and mural business, the Painted Money that grew over several years, and was the focus of my art making practice for 15 years.
Q: Can you tell us about of some of the different arts groups, collaboratives and other projects you’ve been involved with over the past few years?
A: Over the last few years it has been my goal to faze out the commercial work to focus on fine arts and to do so have been a sort of jack-of-all-trades. I co-directed the Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition for two years, then was honored to be the guest curator for the Columbus Collage of Art and Design faculty biennial, Shared Spaces.
Following these two big shows, I curated Paper Moon II woman and paper at the Ohio Dominican University, Housewarning, Hopkins Hall Gallery, Ohio State University and co-curated with Josh Foy the upcoming exhibition Object/Imprint at the OSU Urban Arts Space. I also work within communities conducting workshops and public art projects at amazing places like the Pomerene Art Center, the Wexner Center and the Columbus Public Libraries. Currently I am organizing site-specific exhibitions that are held within empty houses in Franklinton. The first of these exhibitions Rooms to Let I took place on Martin Ave, in June, and the second Rooms to Let II is coming up opening Oct 1st. I am also in development on the Shared Spaces exhibition with Mariana Smith to create a mid-west version of this exhibition that will travel.
Q: How would you describe your artistic style?
A: Conceptual. My work is first rooted in the idea, then I move into negotiating how the idea can be executed, I tend to have an original concept but I maintain a level of flexibility in the making process and often make discovery that bring the work to a finer point, so to say. I am very fond of 2D and 3D work and find that 3D installations tend to feed my 2D printmaking work and visa versa. I am interested in structure, fictive memory, imagined residue and subsequent meaning, or lack there of, of the American house and home… casting it as a backdrop and subject in unison.
Q: Do you have preferred mediums that you enjoy working with in either 2D or 3D?
A: My work is based first on an initial concept, so this concept dictates the medium. I have fluctuated from quilt, to hair, pattern making to sculpture. I have used found objects as well as fabrication. I love photography, drawing and video. Currently I am working in house siding, wood bending, digital motion graphics and photography. I also work in traditional Printmaking techniques as a means to create and develop my larger 3D works. It is important for me to keep open minded about my medium. I try not to limit my ideas to the medium at hand, the more possibilities I allow the better.
Q: What other local artists are you inspired by, or do you enjoy working with?
A: Yikes! This is tough! I feel like I am having an Oscar moment! Columbus artists whom I have had the pleasure of working with year are Candace Black, Sarah Weinstock, Matt Flagle, Elizabeth Gerdemen, Shauna Meriman, Suzanne Silver, Mariana Smith, Micheal Litzau, Julie Abijanic, Nichole Gibbs, Laura Alexander, Ginnie Baer, Elena Oaterwalder and Katie Niewierski. All very amazing artists who really push their work and challenge the constructs of what is to be expected in the contemporary art. It is always fantastic to work with Helma Groot and I am excited to begin to work with Mariana Smith and Danielle Julian Norton, both amazing artists!
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the upcoming Rooms to Let II show that you mentioned earlier?
A: Glad you asked! My first goal for Rooms to Let is to invite artists to meet and respond to the unique characteristics of empty houses that are borrowed through partnerships created with developers or home owners. The second goal is to install conceptual, contemporary site-specific work within a residential neighborhoods, changing both the accessibility of the show to a new audiences and moving arts communities out of their usual circles. And finally, an important aspect of this project is to exhibit these works within the familiar space a house can provide, thus shifting the “read” on the work.
This second exhibition of Rooms to Let II is located at 468 West Town Street in Franklinton. It will highlight the structure of a totally gutted house, and will offer up works that will be unique to this situation. Solo projects will be hosted collectively within this vacant turn-of-the-century home, which was generously lent to us for this exhibition by Kenny Mollica.
The Current Participants include Clare Fox, Detroit; Monika Laskowska, Columbus & Bydgoszcz, Poland; Michael Litzau, Columbus; Ryan Mandell, Boise; Jennifer Purdum, Cincinnati; Suzanne Silver, Columbus; Mariana Smith, Columbus; Timothy Jude Smith, Columbus & Boston; and Melissa Vogley Woods, Columbus. The opening exhibition will take place on Saturday, October 1st from 5-8pm. Additional days and times the following week will be available on website soon.
Q: For anyone who saw the first edition of Rooms to Let, what can they expect to be similar, and what will they find is new this time around?
A: At this exhibition you will see works that respond to the very unique characteristics of this new house. We have two returning and eight brand new artists who are exhibiting, several of which are from out of state. The work will be surprising and amazing, as is the house itself. I hope you all can come out to see it!
Q: Anything other upcoming shows where your work can be found?
A: I am currently in the Printed Matters exhibition at The Fort Hayes Shot Tower Gallery through October 7th. Just around the bend is the Object/Imprint show at the Urban Arts Space in January. Also, my work will be in the Ohio State University MFA exhibition in the spring.
More information about Melissa Vogley Woods can be found online at web.me.com/stitchintheditch/melissavogleywoods/.