Photo of Melodee Jackson

Melodee Jackson

Zeeland, MI, United States

I have wanted to throw ever since as a child I saw a Japanese master center a ball of porcelain on the show “Reading Rainbow.” One day when I was in elementary school at the missionary boarding school in Kenya where my parents worked, I walked into the high school ceramics lab. I asked the students working in there if I could try, and they said that would be fine. I threw a small bowl, only to have the teacher come in and shoo me out. He allowed me to take the bowl, but knowing nothing of drying or firing, I tried to bake it in our wood burning fireplace. It cracked, of course, and I threw it away. In high school I was finally allowed on the wheel again, and I continued as a studio art major at Hope College. I was once challenged by a professor to stop jumping from one project to the next, and to make a series, following an idea to its conclusion. One day after college I had the thought of making a panoramic view of the farmland that I drove through every day to our house in Hamilton. I etched the scenery onto a very small bowl, and found it precious. Then a friend of my father asked if I could make one for his wife’s childhood farmhouse which would soon be torn down. I made a large bowl, wrapping the front and back views of the house as well as the cornfields and barns into a continuous image. Then other friends asked for their houses and the houses of loved ones to be made. These pieces have meant a great deal to the people whose homes are shown. As a missionary kid, “home” has been an important but difficult concept. My rule of thumb is that home is wherever my mom is. I think my father follows the same rule. But familiar places and old “homes” have some connection with me that I forget until a photograph or a memory brings a pang of nostalgia. Now I am seeking to continue the panoramic series with Pearl, using a larger scale, far more detail, and new techniques as I’ve begun shallow relief sculpting instead of strict line drawing. Though the buildings are grand, I have been thinking of the people who cross the bridge every day and view the bridge as functional and familiar. I hope it will have the feeling of home, a place that belongs to them, and shed a new light on it, making the monotonous beautiful and fresh. During my brief visit to Tokyo in college, I found the buildings a force to be reckoned with. It truly was a concrete jungle, with the architecture alone determining the personality of the scene without the trees and fields of my country upbringing or the lawns of American suburbs. I found a refuge for my mind in the weeds poking through the cracks between the buildings and the sidewalk and in the rust around old window frames. I would climb up the flights of narrow stairs in our hotel to the roof to journal and sketch. It was there that I first found interest in architecture, the only subject that had been a chore to me in college drawing courses. A winding fire escape on a building beside the hotel started it. I was fascinated by its spiraling black form, the angle from which I viewed each layer changing the way the flights overlapped. There were tiny red mites sprinkled liberally over every surface of the roof. I first noticed them when I accidentally squished one on a page of my sketchbook, leaving a tiny red smear that remains to this day. I was overwhelmed by the thought of how many of them there must be crawling across all the buildings, and how God knew where each one was and where it had come from and where it was going. My decision to make a good half of my vase imagery to be railing, sidewalk, and road, at first bewildered my father, who is a great encouragement in my artistic endeavors. But seeing it develop, he has warmed to it. My hope is that by crafting these seemingly mundane subjects with time and care, I can present them with all their cracks and stains as things worth spending time to look at. Although I have not started with the detail on the sidewalk and road yet, already I find the bolts in the railing to be moments of joy.

Melodee's ArtPrize Entries

These are Melodee's official ArtPrize entries from this year and past years.

  • Photo of Early January on the Pearl Street Bridge

    Early January on the Pearl Street Bridge

    2017 ArtPrize Entry Melodee Jackson
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Melodee's Past Work

These are images of past work that Melodee has done.

  • Melodee's past work
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  • Melodee's past work