Photography Reimagined: The Artistic Process of Melody Cassen
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.
Things happen for reasons we can’t explain at the time, but later it makes more sense. I like to pay homage in my work to those subtle layers of things “energy frequencies” play throughout our lives
In an exclusive interview with the artist Melody Cassen, she shares her journey of how she creates a simple photograph into a beautiful digital collage. The artist explains her style of work, “I like to create artworks that embody the Feminine with a touch of the romantic and surreal.” Melody feels travelling exposed her at an early age, to new ways of looking at things and a greater appreciation of diversity.
1. Melody, I read that you have recently “become interested in themes around the interconnectedness of all life, from the tiniest insects to humankind”. I’m interested to hear more of your opinion on this topic and how it has influenced your artwork.
There are so many serendipitous things in the world we can’t physically explain. Things happen for reasons we can’t explain at the time, but later it makes more sense. I like to pay homage in my work to those subtle layers of things “energy frequencies” play throughout our lives. We may turn down one road and not another which leads to a different outcome. Cause and effect are always as play. That’s what I mean by the interconnectedness of all things, from very tiny insects and plants to animals to humankind. The invisible threads that connect us all, everything has a role and a place that’s very necessary.
2. Could you tell us more about your background as an artist, and how your upbringing and family influenced you?
From an early age, I was always drawing. Luckily for me, my parents saw this and allowed me to pursue a multitude of art forms, including painting, drawing, weaving, ceramics, and even cooking, always experimenting with what worked best for my ideas. On vacations, my parents would take me to theatre and art museums during our travels. This exposed me at an early age to what was possible and a world larger than my own I wanted to be a part of. I remember being transfixed by a production of The Nutcracker and Walt Disney’s film ”Fantasia”, which allowed me to see beyond what was real.
Both my parents were science 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. Travelling 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, kimono fabric designs, good luck talismans, Victorian flower messages, a beautiful western sky, and the Divine Feminine are some of the things that have inspired me.
My hope is to uplift women of all backgrounds to see the goddess within themselves.
3. One of my favourite paintings of yours includes One World which incorporates flora and insects with a beautiful background. What was the inspiration behind this work?
That artwork I created for my city’s participation in the United Nations Day of International Peace. Each year the International Day of Peace is observed worldwide on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
I was given free rein to do whatever I wanted. Working from a model’s image I had previously photographed in the studio, my intention was to add elements to convey a sense of global unity. The spectrum tube of light in the background embodies her, almost teleporting to the heavens above. Flowers over her breast give birth to blossoming fruits, white doves for peace and insects are ever present throughout the ages, small in size but so intrinsic to the ecosystem. Clearwater drops fall from her face onto the flowers in sort of a honeycomb pattern. With Honeycomb, I wanted to suggest the bee population as they are known for their community building. In essence, she’s a bit sad but hopeful for world peace.
4. Melody, would you share any women artist that you think has a huge impact on your creative practice?
My influences range from all over and are always changing. I’ve been influenced by so many women artists over the years. Some of them that come to mind are Frida Kahlo, the theatre productions of Julie Taymor, Cindy Sherman, Hilma af Klint’s abstracts, Sarah Moon’s dreamy photography, the painter Anne Siems, and recently Suzie Zuzek’s pattern designs.
Flowers over her breast give birth to blossoming fruits, white doves for peace and insects are ever present throughout the ages, small in size but so intrinsic to the ecosystem.
5. You paint mostly fauna, some of which resemble crowns worn by your models. What message or emotion do you wish to convey through your work?
I have inspired nature and the Divine Feminine, which comes out in my work as fruits, flowers, colours and motifs often as crowns representing the Goddess. My hope is to uplift women of all backgrounds to see the goddess within themselves.
6. So tell us about any recent project you are working on.
My Shopify website so I can begin selling prints of my artwork! I’ve also been going back to my analogue roots, experimenting with cyanotypes of my digital illustrations and then adding hand-painted shell gold embellishments. Cyanotypes are one of the oldest photographic processes, with a distinct colour of cyan blue when exposed to ultraviolet light or sunlight. A simple process of exposing a negative to treated paper and exposing it to sunlight creates a beautiful blue-tone image. Shell gold is an ancient process involving gold leaf, water and honey distilling down into gold paint.
Read more about Melody Cassen