Artist of the Week

Melissa Steckbauer

January 19, 2012

Melissa Steckbauer was born in Tucson Arizona.  She earned her BFA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2008.  Steckbauer has an upcoming solo exhibition at Western Exhibitions in Chicago.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I studied fine art in Wisconsin, Utrecht, and Florence and moved to Berlin in 2008. Currently I work in photography and collage and my source images are from family albums or photo shoots that I arrange with friends. Sessions with friends are done with the intention of experiencing greater intimacy and communication. The objects that I make from the photos are heavy on ornamentation and structural/formal issues.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? It’s absolutely about the people in my circle and the ways that they inspire me and express. I have a lot of healers and creators around, e.g., artists, actors, surgeons, Grinberg practitioners, teachers, architects, and folks working in PR. What they ask of me in terms of a level of connection, responsibility, and vulnerability teaches me how to trust on a regular basis

How has living in Berlin affected your art practice?  It has definitely cooled it down in terms of content and materials.  The Berlin art aesthetic—in terms of institutional and gallery representation—is more aligned with geometry, minimalism, theory, and trash art aesthetics.  It definitely runs counter to my former practice and I appreciate and slowly absorb the contrast.

What’s your favorite thing about Berlin? The grounded freedom.  In the summer it is totally possible to find folks—the whole wild and/or bourgeoisie family—naked within the city’s parks and lakes (FKK) in a most humane and non-sexual way.  It’s also possible to express yourself in every conceivable manner on a street level, from dress to political affiliation.  It’s a very grounded and played-down city; it’s smart, bohemian in all the right ways, and savvy as hell.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I will show with Anne Wölk at Re:Rotterdam this February; in April la maestra, Ana Sánchez De Vivar will curate a group show in Berlin that I’ll participate in; and notably I have a solo show opening January 27th (through March 10th) at Western Exhibitions in Chicago.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you’d be doing? Assuredly something with mental health as it potentially leads people, i.e., citizens, i.e., nations to less harmful conflict resolution.

What are you really excited about right now? Learning to listen to my body.  It’s been exceptionally challenging for me, I pretty much resist it with everything I’ve got but it’s an area of complete and perfect inner power.

If you had one wish what would it be? To be a far more honest communicator: to hide and pretend less, to be more authentic in the expression of my will, my needs, and to assert a good, clear “no” when called for.