Melissa Milton is a native of Arkansas, U.S. She grew up in a family of seven in Fayetteville, which at that time was a quaint little Southern town populated by 10,000 small town residents plus 5,000 college students attending the local university. The mix of people combined to create the atmosphere of a small Southern town with traditional values laced with liberal thinking. A child in the 60’s and a teenager in the 70’s, she has been influenced by the art and design of those eras. She enjoyed drawing and painting all through her public school years. However, Melissa allowed herself to be persuaded by well meaning adults to pursue law as a career instead of art. Law was admittedly an interesting career and served for decades as a way to make a good living for the family she raised.
Now a grandmother and retired attorney, Melissa began creating art late in life. This came about when, at age 56, she became disabled by a longstanding inherited neurological disorder (Dysautonomia) and a collagen disorder frequently found in the same people, EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome). She actively had the disease symptoms for 16 years before they finally progressed to the point of keeping her homebound and suddenly unemployed. Rather abruptly, Melissa became homebound, unable to stand much, sit up much, or drive a car. She passed out daily from random blood pressure drops.
After the first year at home she became bored out of her mind from being stuck lying down in bed most of the time. You can only read so many books and watch so much tv. She remembered how much she loved drawing and painting as a kid, so she decided to start creating art to pass the time. She initially chose digital art, drawing and painting on a tablet with a hand held stylus, for the simple reason she had to paint lying down. Liquid paint would have spilled on the bedspread and sofa, the two places she spent most of her day.
Melissa created art for a full year simply for the joy it brought her as a homebound person, before she began selling her artwork to people who had been asking. She had been turning them down due to not knowing how to print the digital images so that people could have copies. After the 5th person asked about buying her artwork, it occurred to her she ought to learn how to go about printing her digital images so that she could sell hard copies of them. Learn she did, initially asking her husband to drive her to and from a professional art printing company. Over time, she eventually learned how to print them herself to resolve the issue of trying to get rides to the Printer’s and back when her husband’s job frequently took him out of State.
She also learned, over time, how to wrap canvases, varnish them, and wire them for hanging courtesy of Youtube. Melissa likes to joke she “attended Youtube University” to learn her pragmatic art studio skills. The spare bedroom at home gradually evolved into an art studio. A special low table enables her to gallery wrap and wire the art from an overhead view without having to stand up.
In late 2021, Melissa tried out additional art media while lying down. She discovered that with the assistance of a breakfast-in-bed tray (with its legs removed) she could work with clay while lying down. Her clay artwork was born. At that point, paint did start to get spilled on the bedspread. It was obviously time to simply buy cheap bedspreads, because the painting was going to happen! In conjunction with working with clay and painting upon it, she learned to work with art resin at her special low-to-the-ground work table. She enjoys using the art resin as “mortar” to hold together her clay art objects, as this allows her to create imaginative art tableaus with her clay art pieces. In late 2021 she began to sit on the floor for brief periods when working with wet paint on the large canvases she needed as a background for her clay and acrylic wall art.
Melissa is limited in her standing or walking and uses oxygen 24/7. However, as is common with people who have Dysautonomia, Melissa stands and walks quite well for hours if chest deep in the buoyancy of water. She therefore spends a lot of time in shallow, chest deep water.
The irony of needing oxygen while on land but doing fine underwater – where her nervous system functions normally- is not lost on her. (See mixed media, painted photo of the artist titled “Collision”. It was taken of her in water.)
The daily hours spent moving about freely in water have played a large role in influencing the fluid style of her art. Water is her freedom, where she can stand, walk, and slowly swim. The figures or objects in her 2D visual artwork often glide about effortlessly with water’s weightlessness and fluidity. The paint layers are themselves often translucent like water. 60’s and 70’s colors meet the fluidity of water. Even her 3D clay artwork often features “water” made out of clear art resin.
The daily time spent in water eventually led to her taking up underwater photography. The inspiration for this occurred one evening while was admiring the way the pool lights danced around upon and inside of the water . It occurred to her that underwater photographs of people might be very beautiful, especially if taken at night. People often look very dreamlike while underwater, as if they are flying or floating. She began photographing people underwater and then later painting upon those photographs (initially painting upon them merely as a way to improve the background). Melissa was delighted when people – some of them total strangers – began contacting her to ask if they could model for her underwater after seeing some of her underwater photography art. They’d come over and model for her underwater in her physical therapy pool. (This has been put on hold during the Pandemic.)
Melissa creates art mainly because she enjoys doing so. She also enjoys listening to other people’s reactions to and interpretations of what she creates. Her third pleasure from creating her art has come from various people expressing to her that it has made them feel hopeful. She has been pleasantly surprised to learn that creating her art has served as an inspiration to some people because it makes them feel that they may likewise transform their own life challenges into something positive.
Melissa realizes that if she had not become physically disabled, her art would not exist. Her medical issues are inherited, so she believes art creation is what she was apparently genetically destined to do this at this time in her life. She is having a lot of fun creating her artwork and hopes you find enjoyment in it as well.