Melissa Joseph Interview - The Hopper Prize

Melissa Joseph

Melissa Joseph on early memories of making, exploring new materials, working intuitively & a broad practice in which all things are interrelated

Melissa Joseph, photo by Shawn Inglima

photo by Shawn Inglima

How did you get into making art?

I have always been a maker. Some of my earliest memories are of gluing, sewing, and drawing. That said, I didn’t understand it to be my vocation until much later, like 30 years later. (I wish I could put the SMH emoji here.)

What are you currently working on?

One of 2020’s (few) gifts has been the opportunity to participate in a residency at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn. It is here that I started working with felt. I am trying to push felting as far as I can. I am working with images from my family photo archive. The future is not a place I can imagine at the moment, so I have been looking backward instead.

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

I work very much intuitively and I consistently work with this imagery. I am actively trying to figure out how it fits into the larger contemporary conversation. I feel like I am making steps toward figuring it out and felt was definitely a big jump forward. I am fiber native for sure, but working with a material that can be both the image and substrate at the same time made a lot of things fall into place.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I work broadly, but things are interrelated. The one thing that all my work shares is a sense of presence: its ‘Thingness’. My entire practice is an endless consideration of the implications of how we occupy space.

I have always been a maker.

Melissa Joseph

photo by Isa Rodrigues

photo by Isa Rodrigues

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I had to answer this question for another interview, and I hope it is ok that I put the same response here. I share a studio with a friend. We don’t always overlap our hours, but we do enough that we can share what ideas and feedback. I like to work alone, but near other people. Because of Covid, I am doing more from my apartment. It means smaller work sometimes, but I don’t tend to work at a very large scale. I have a full time job as a grant administrator, too, so my studio hours tend to be in chunks on either nights and weekends. Nothing is typical right now, though! I try work whenever I have the time and mental capacity simultaneously.

Who are your favorite artists?

This is a never-ending list, but I will give you some and you can edit as you need for space constraints. (It’s def. not exhaustive) Doris Salcedo, Bronwyn Katz, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Cecilia Vicuna, Wendy Red Star, MF Husain, Cyrilla Mozenter, Deidrick Brackens, Anne Minich, Beverly Buchanan, Billy Zangewa, Bony Ramirez, Anya Paintsil, Enrico Riley, Vivan Suter, Marlon Wobst, JMW Turner, Kate Moran, Sanford Biggers

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Instagram was a crash course in contemporary art for me. My friend Emmitt has encyclopedic knowledge of artists and shares often. I read art books and magazines, visit galleries and museums (when it is permitted) and I really like the databases/sales platforms that let you see artists you may otherwise miss, like the White Columns Registry, Artfare, and Foundwork. It’s exciting that there are always new people to discover.

Melissa Joseph is an artist based in Brooklyn who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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