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Melinda Hurst Frye is a Seattle-based exhibiting artist, working in themes of implied environments and shared experiences within the still life aesthetic. (Image: Melinda Hurst Frye)

Artist of the Week: Melinda Hurst Frye

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists and we want to showcase their work on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at hello@seattlerefined.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

We love the Seattle artist community for many reasons - it's why we started this series. But one thing we've noticed over and over again is the camaraderie of the artists. You'd think that there was severe competition (and there probably is to some extent), but mostly we're just seeing love! Case in point, this next Artist was recommended to us as someone to profile by a past Artist of the Week - and boy are we glad she was!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
Melinda Hurst Frye: I’ve been in the arts since I was a young, taking classes here and there. The first I remember was at a neighbor’s house where she invited all of the neighborhood preschoolers to draw and make art. I attended Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland where I studied Printmaking, Illustration, and Photography, and later received my MFA in photography at Savannah College of Art & Design.

Do you work with other mediums?
I stay pretty close to lens-based tools. I mainly work with the scanner and camera, however, I do enjoy process heavy arts such as printmaking and building small temporary sculptures as photographic subjects. Photography as a medium lends to believability and assumed truth, we use it to document and accept what we see as reality, even when we are savvy enough to understand manipulation. I gravitate towards photography because of its existing visual language and the ability to play with levels of reality

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
I revel in the process, I find that the experimentation that takes place in process heavy work is quite rewarding. The work comes together from collecting specimens, both physically collecting and photographically collecting them, digging holes and examining what is in the specific location at that time of year. Reading, percolating mentally, sketching, iteration, asking questions and poking around bio/environmental websites to learn about what is happening in my immediate space (both underground and aboveground) are all part of the process. I dig holes and plunk my scanner into the hole, smashing it up against the wall of dirt, sometimes capturing an insect visually. I choose the scanner for the base image because of what it does visually. The focus is odd and intimate, as well as the files are enormous. I scan and photograph plants, animals and insect specimens and then once I have the elements that I want, I begin to compose the scene. There is a fair amount of compositing and digital painting that happening to craft the scene and the light just right. Then, after about 40 hours, the image takes shape. I do work on smaller scale images and looping animations to clear my head with a bit of process respite, but I find much of my joy in the immersive, layered images.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
Insects and elements from nature have long been part of my work, though they have been used as a metaphor of disruption. Later, I was digging in the dirt with my son and daughter and we followed a beetle from one part of the yard to another until it dove underground. I had that strange feeling that you get when you are swimming in a lake and you realize that there are fish, plants, and life under you. Or that moment when you are looking at the stars and you feel small. I was swept away with the idea of the unseen in my own habitat and I wanted to see it.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
Definitely, still life and insects.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
I have several that I am attached to for various reasons, either the memory of making it or personal significance of a specimen. Underneath the Carrots went through several versions before it worked and I am very pleased with that image, and I love the shape the blackberry roots make in Underneath the Blackberry. There are 2 images (they shall remain nameless) that were so technically challenging that I have a hard time enjoying those as much as the others. The images that have the most personal significance are actually the images from the series Origin which is about motherhood. Those images captured the feeling I was having as a new mother; the love, wanting everything to stay frozen in time while also struggling with the shift in roles and independence.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
My children, having them and being with them. Both conceptually and how I work now. I have to be more selfish with my time as well as efficient. While it used to be having coffee in a coffee shop and reading a book, now it is emailing while scanning specimens and wondering where I left my coffee mug.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
Visit my website to view my work, make sure to sign up on my mailing list for updates on exhibitions and other happenings, as well as I post work in progress and process images on Instagram (@mhurstfrye.photo). Additionally, my work (underneath the strawberries) will be available at the Artist Trust Auction coming up in February. (Attend and support arts, yay!). Humble Arts Foundation, as well as the Wired Photo both, wrote fantastic articles about the work.

And if you want to see the work in real life...Here is a list of upcoming solo exhibitions…

  • 2017 Underneath: Home. New Work. SPACE Gallery at Magnuson, Seattle, Washington (Upcoming in September)
  • 2017 Underneath: Home. New Work. CORE Gallery, Seattle, Washington (Upcoming in May)
  • 2017 Underneath, Evergreen College, Olympia, Washington (Upcoming in April)
  • 2017 Underneath, North Idaho College, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (Upcoming in February/March)

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
Oh yes! I am continuing to make work around the idea of habitats, the new work will be exhibited at CORE Gallery in Seattle’s Pioneer Square during the month of May (stay tuned to my website for reception and artist talk information). I am greatly looking forward to my artist talk and reception in Idaho on 2/14, I am talking with a couple of organizations on ways to collaborate.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee?
In a mug, with milk and sugar, ideally misplaced for an hour, then nuked, then forgotten in the microwave, then poured out. Repeat until I just end up making tea or leave the house.


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