From an early age, Melody Cassen pursued a multitude of art forms, including painting, drawing, weaving, ceramics, and even cooking, always experimenting with what worked best for her ideas. At the age of 8 she created a winning advertisement for a local store. Her talents naturally led her to pursue a career in art. After completing a degree in graphic design at East Carolina University she headed to New York City, where she designed book covers for publishing houses Random House and Simon & Schuster, among many others.
After many years of working in publishing both as an illustrator and art director, Melody turned her attention to creating images that embody her own style and personal point of view.
I have always been attracted to things a tiny step away from reality. Not as far away as complete fantasy, but taking a subject to a new level, like Alice in Wonderland or the theatrical productions of Julie Taymor, for example. People have described my style as having dreamy or sensual qualities. I like to create artworks that embody the Feminine with a touch of the romantic and surreal.
Both my parents were teachers who were able to travel during the summer when school was in recess, so more often than not I found myself on a trip somewhere. Traveling exposed me, at an early age, to new ways of looking at things and a greater appreciation of diversity. I started creating personal works based on multicultural themes, symbolism and nature. Geisha hairstyles, Indian saris, kimonos, good luck talismans, Victorian flower messages, Chinese dresses are some of the things that have inspired me.
People ask me, what do you mean by photo illustration? In my case, it means a style that’s a hybrid of photography combined with other visual elements, such as graphics and textures, to create something beyond a simple photograph, akin to a digital photo collage.
In the studio, I photograph the model and bring the image into Photoshop. Combined with other textures, motifs and line art, my work is a hybrid between illustration and photography. For me, photo illustration is a marriage of painting and drawing with photographic processes. It gives my imagination free rein to rapidly explore and play with new ideas.
How does the theme ‘Biosphere’ play a role in your work?
More recently, I’ve become interested in themes around the interconnectedness of all life from the tiniest insects to humankind to the planet as a whole and beyond. The unseen, invisible threads that spiritually connect us all. To me, when I think of the biosphere or biodiversity I naturally think of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms working in concert, but I also expand to include humankind in that we are each unique and may seem outwardly different, yet we are more alike and interdependent with one another and with the natural world.
The subtle layering of textures, colors, objects and patterns in my artwork… implied vibrations and frequencies, is my attempt at conveying the interconnected lushness of life itself.