12 Questions: Melissa Dorn

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1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

Daybook by Anne Truitt

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer


2. What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a series of Mop Portraits using acrylic, mop strands and industrial felt. This is a continuation of a larger series based on industrial mops and my fascination with them.


3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?

Failure is an amazing teacher. I continue to push myself and my work, because if I’m not failing I’m not reaching high enough. The failures that stand out to me tend to be those where I keep trying for something year after year. A perfect example is the Golden Foundation Artist Residency. I applied three years in a row (possibly even four) and received it last year. I went, it was amazing and so worth applying every year.


4. What is your most unusual habit?

Apparently, I think all my habits are normal! Not really coming up with anything too interesting. I do like to drink a glass of sport tea every afternoon while chewing Trident cinnamon gum.


5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

Eva Hesse, so I could talk to her while she did the portrait and watch how she utilizes “non-art” materials. I can’t imagine what she would be creating now if she were still alive.


6. What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office? What is your studio like? Could you share an image?

Currently, I would say it’s a couple things, my palette knife, mops, and the electric kettle (tea and more tea!)



7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?

Work, really the only thing that gets me out of a funk is to work. A lot of the work I do is repetitive and I try to keep something in progress at all times. That way it is easy to jump back into. I also play happy music while I’m doing this. I find ideas come while I’m working. I’ve also found that collaborating with other people is a big jumpstart to my own production. If there are just too many things to do, I create a list. I’m a big list maker and once things are down on paper I feel better.


8. Who/What influences your work?

Everyday objects influence my work directly, I’m very attracted to the ordinary. I’m also influenced by other artists in the Milwaukee community, as well as those farther a field that I’ve met through residencies, exhibition, Facebook and Instagram. More historically, the biggies are Anne Truitt, Eva Hesse, Helen Frankenthaler, Lenore Tawney and Agnes Martin.


9. Do you collect anything?

I collect art. I’ve slowly been building my collection since the late nineties, over that time I’ve purchased and traded for work. I try to acquire a few pieces every year. I’m also working on building my collection of hand built functional objects.


10. What words of advice would you give to your younger self?

Take full advantage of every opportunity that art school offers. Spend quality time in the studio every week. It doesn’t matter what other people think. Save and invest money.


11.In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice?

Exercising 6 days a week and eating clean has made a huge difference in my energy level and happiness. I began this about four years ago, and I’m more productive in the studio and definitely feel better.


12.Share an inspiring image.

Image of Louise Bourgeois in her studio from this website: http://theartdaily.blogspot.com/2010/05/obituary-louise-bourgeois-dies-at-98.html




Melissa's work will be available on ARTSY and on view at James May Gallery as a part of the exhibition: Tension in the Ordinary | Winter Invitational.

Exhibition dates: Feb 8 - April 11 2020

James May Gallery 219 State Street

Algoma, WI 54201

Open: Thursday- Saturday 10-5 262-753-3130 (Call ahead)