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Artist Profile Series: Melissa Koch

Jhenn Whalen

Artist Engagement Intern

Melissa Koch’s art springs from a childhood based on the island of Cyprus, which was filled with the exploration of the Mediterranean landscape and the wonder of surveying migratory birds and local flora and fauna. This sensitivity to the ecological needs of both humans and nature has led to equally delicate, industrious pieces that inform viewers of the impact of human habitation. She views her work as an ongoing commitment to innovating and exploring ideas, both aesthetically and technically.

As a graduate of The Architectural Association of London, Melissa engineered a creative practice that utilizes drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, and mixed media installations using cut paper, Tyvek, and found materials that she then re-purposes. Her work connects public art with education, science, and environmental action.

Last year, Melissa received a GAP award to fund her interactive, multimedia piece entitled Winged Migrations. With over 50,000 honey bees involved in the seven art works, the organic results not only functioned as a reminder of the presence of bees and the tenuous balance between man and nature, but celebrated the beauty of transformation, adaptation, and re-creation. She writes that she allowed the two hives to be her teachers while “learning about honeybee democracy, how the colony functions… how to speak BEE… Whether my presence around the hives was welcome or considered threatening.” Then, she “reversed the process of human influence and control… allowing the bees to collaborate and influence my work.” Melissa states that her research led to her careful intention over bee-friendly materials and to be an ambassador of honey-bee preservation.

A year later, Winged Migrations continues to develop as an ongoing project, now in collaboration with a journalist and scientist for use in an educational exhibit on environmental protection.

Melissa has since worked with the Put Art in Parks and Art Interruptions commissions. She has shown at the Seattle Art Museum Gallery and the Museo Gallery.

She shared that she applied for GAP a number of times before receiving an award. Her tip for GAP applicants is to “persevere and do not take rejections personally.”

In following her Eco Art Series, Melissa is currently working on a project entitled “ADVISORY,” which is inspired by roadside construction signs. Through common symbols that trigger driver awareness and caution, viewers are reminded of pressing environmental issues, as well as the primary source of global warming (fuel emissions). You can see this work currently on display in Bremerton as part of an invitational group show. Melissa is also planning a series of publications on healing traumas from children’s life experiences in war-torn countries in partnership with a literary artist and refugees.

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Jhenn Whalen is a graduate student of the MFA Arts Leadership program at Seattle University. She seeks stories and activities that spark curiosity, joy, and connection through the arts.