Melinda Laszczynski works in a variety of media, shifting between ceramic, sculpture, painting, collage, and combinations therein. I love the heavy, layered, glorpy quality to every piece, though, no matter what it’s made of. And it’s certainly worthwhile to check out her site (links after the Q&A!) to get a much better idea of the scope of her practice!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born in Pittsburgh, PA and raised in Cleveland, OH. I have a BFA in Painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art. I moved to Houston, TX for graduate school at the University of Houston and fell in love with it. I met my partner John (also an artist) in graduate school and we currently live with our cat, Agnes. My practice includes sculpture, installation, watercolor, ceramics, found objects, and painting- I am not tied to any one medium. Anything is fair game in my studio. I also teach art full time, and try to foster a similar sense of exploration in my students.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I don’t remember ever not drawing or painting- my parents always signed me up for art classes and bought art supplies. We spent a lot of time at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In high school I realized that I could go to college for art and didn’t want to do anything else. I was in a vocational program called Commercial Art where we worked on our portfolios for half the day, for two years. That’s where I started considering it seriously as a profession.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I’m always exploring new materials and ways to make things. Collage, and related ideas of combining disparate space, always run through my work. My paintings in graduate school were heavily influenced by commercial baked goods and cakes, and those textures are still very present. I started making ceramics seriously this year- I was scheduled to teach it and had never loaded a kiln before! I absolutely love ceramics and it’s opened up my practice immensely. It feels like a more intimate version of my paintings.
What is your process like?
I always have at least five things going at a time, and a stack of paintings in purgatory that I occasionally try and finish up. Sometimes I am very focused on one body of work for a period of time. I like to make watercolors in the summer. But there’s always something going in the background, whether its ceramics, or a large painting. They feed into one another. A lot of my process is finding things and bringing them back to the studio. For example, I’ll look for lenticular prints, or new textures, like crushed glass to add to paint, or find an absurd object for assemblage. I recently found a great turquoise and pink wig at a shop just outside of Dallas. I have stacks of these things in my studio. I only really plan if I am getting ready for a show, and then it is usually something like a number of works I’d like to complete.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
My mentor in undergrad, Lane Cooper, always said “With joy and wild abandon.” She taught me to be free, have fun, and be constantly exploring in the studio. One of my mentors in graduate school, Gael Stack, would say “The first pancake is always a lump.” She taught me to be fearless and keep going.
Is there any advice that you’ve received in the past that you’re grateful you chose to ignore?
There seems to be a general idea that artists should make one type of work. I’d be extremely bored in my studio if I made the same thing every day.
What is your studio like?
My studio is in a perpetual state of controlled chaos, with paintings drying on tables or on the floor with tools and paint scattered about. I have a drawer of glitters, holographic pigments, and paint additives, and a file of collage materials and lenticular prints. I keep paint skins in a box and sometimes find them stuck together from the Texas heat. I like to have one wall of finished works so that I can see their progression and relationships to one another. On the rare chance that my table is cleared off, my cat is usually napping on it and I work around her.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
It’s frustrating when art isn’t taken seriously or is a superficial afterthought. I see this happening in schools where STEM education is pushed and art is cut, and those awful paint and sip classes that perpetuate casual cookie cutter art that anyone can make. Art is something that has real cultural value, that people dedicate their lives to studying and pursuing. Comments like “anyone can do that”, “it speaks for itself”, and “it’s abstract” to describe a thing that someone just did a poor job on- those really burn my cookies.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Playful, tactile, and shifting.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on ceramics and abstract watercolors. The watercolors are fairly large scale, almost 3 by 4 feet, and really physical. I approach the paper like I do a ball of clay, stretching it and tearing it, working the surface, applying glazes of paint in layers. They’re going to be shown alongside ceramics this year and I’m excited to see how they complement one another. I’m also starting to scale up my ceramic work and incorporate hand building, mold making, and extrusion techniques.