Melissa Furness

January 20, 2018 by Laura Gomez


Artist’s statement

There is a paradox that occurs when confronted with ruins. Our thinking splits into two paths–one that leads backward in time and another that travels forward, paths that are wandered upon simultaneously. The result is the creation of a complex alternative present. We are pointed toward a distorted world in which even what is now new will outlive us in some form of odd decay for other generations to translate.

These fragments are leftovers of a public history, which we then make personal through contemporary experience. They are sites from which life has departed, but the discourse surrounding their former occupation remains. There is a fullness that can be felt as we find ourselves in a constantly transforming continuum that is experienced in the present.

My work explores the life of the art object and the environments that they inhabit, building a visual dialog that extends from the internal to the external by testing the limits of narrative that exists within and beyond it through process and intervention. Artifacts are created and eroded as weather, time and human interaction raise questions regarding the nature of external forces upon the object in the formation of its present history.

Melissa Furness


Artist Interview:

Name: Melissa Furness
Age: (birth year is enough)
Birthday: 1975
College: MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Iowa

Colours: (favorite?) red
Books: Can’t really say. I like many, as I have a degree in English Literature along with Visual Art.
Movie: I am drawn to movies by Alfred Hitcock, Federico Felini, film noir.
Food: Chinese, Indian, Italian
Quote: “What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.” –Theodore Roethke

For how long have been in art? How did you start? I have felt driven to be an artist since a very young age—10 or 11 really. I couldn’t really imagine doing anything else—anything that is not creative in some way. I worked my way through school studying art, gaining skills and meeting good people along the way.

How would you define yourself as an artist? I guess I rather avoid doing that. However, you might say that I am something of a Neo-surrealist/Neo-romanticist.

Would you tell us some things about yourself? Please include a few little known facts about you as well. I am pretty much a “small town girl”—originally from Iowa. I learned to paint mostly through doing scene painting for the theatre when I was a teenager. The way that I think and compose my work creatively stems from that in the sense of large scale, narrative and figures with props on a kind of stage.

Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration mostly through travel and research on culture and history.

What are you trying to communicate with your art? My work explores ideas of alternative histories, one might say. I am interested in exploring the life of the art object in varying ways. With installation work, the environments that artifacts inhabit are of interest. I work to build a visual dialog that extends from the internal to the external by testing the limits of narrative that exists within and beyond these objects through process and intervention. With the paintings, I push the notion of history painting through a contemporary female perspective and utilize the metaphor of the ruin to create an alternative reality. With the ruin, we are pointed toward a distorted world in which even what is now new will outlive us in some form of odd decay for other generations to translate.

What art do you most identify with? Contemporary Art.

Why do you do … what you do? I am not myself if I don’t create work. It makes me full.

What does “being creative” mean to you? Moving “things” (objects, words, music, thoughts, etc) around in a way that is unexpected.

Any shows, galleries, or publications where our readers can find your work? I am currently represented by K Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado. I was recently published in the West Edition of New American Paintings, #132.

How do you cultivate a collector base? My gallery does that.

Which is your most cherished piece? My most cherished pieces are always the ones that sell the most quickly, I have found. I can’t say one particular one. Generally, I cherish most what I have just completed.

If you had an exclusive collective exhibition with other artists work, who would you choose? Kehinde Wiley, Franz Ackermann, Julie Mehretu, Kristine Moran, Neo Rauch, Matthew Ritchie, Adrian Ghenie, Susanne Kuhn, Daniel Richter…. I could choose many.

What do you see as the strengths of your pieces, visually or conceptually? That is a difficult question. I produce the work so that it is both visually compelling as well as conceptually interesting. The two work together and are interdependent.

What aspect of your work do you pay particular attention to? Every aspect.

What Role does the artist have in society? To affect people–to make them think, talk, react, interact, meditate, respond.

What is your most treasured memory? When my daughter lost her first tooth in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

What for you is the most enjoyable part of your art? The activity of making it, I suppose… working with my hands in the studio and thinking as I do it, enjoying the process.

What famous artists have influenced you, and how? J.M.W. Turner, John Singer Sargeant, David, Delacroix, Ingres, Goya, Pieter Paul Rubens—All of these artists are more historical and were part of the Neoclassical or Romantism movements and the transition between the two. This period in art history has affected my work quite a lot in considering this contrast between the public and personal. Gustav Klimt, Robert Rauschenberg, Bill Viola, Jessica Stockholder, Pipilotti Rist, Matthew Ritchie, and Moriko Mori are influential in the way that they utilize multiple media in unique and Contemporary Surreal ways.

What other interests do you have outside of art? I love to travel and enjoy history. I like being active.

Some short questions now:

more Colours: blue, sepia

Textures: moss, stone, patterns

Define your art: I don’t believe that art should be defined.

Describe your style: “Define yourself”… …. Same as the above, really.



Prizes: I was awarded to become an artist ambassador to Mexico City for the 2015 Biennial of the Americas. I also participated in the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennial in Kerala, India through A.I.R. Gallery of New York.

Art Fairs: 2018 L.A. Art Fair (most recent)

Museums: current exhibition at CU South Denver Art and Natural History Museum

Cities: I recently taught drawing and printmaking in Florence, Italy, as well as conducted some visual research there for new work.

Travels: (artist residencies and teaching abroad): Florence, Italy; Beijing, China; Mexico City, Mexico; County Kilkenny, Ireland; Gdansk, Poland; Saratoga Springs, New York; Balatonfured, Hungary; Berkely, California

Music: I listen to a wide range of music, just really don’t like country

You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see films, photo exhibitions, art perfomances today? In regular contemporary places…. Theatres, Galleries. Perhaps this question is phrased a bit oddly? I look at contemporary work as much as if not more than historical works.

How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art? I would likely become very depressed.

What do you think about the art community and market? I think that it is complicated. Certainly, it is positive that artists from anywhere in the world can feel as though they have access to getting some attention with their work without having to live in a specific location. On the other hand, certain aspects of the art world can be difficult with regards to who one knows, the amount of funding one has, as well as one’s strengths in socializing and marketing themselves. Artists a really require to pretty much “do it all.” This isn’t exactly easy.

Should art be funded? Why? Of course! There should be far more government and public support for the arts, as it is something that benefits all in multiple ways. The arts are a necessity. They are a way for us to share our stories, to remind ourselves of our communal history, to broaden the horizons of our children and teach ourselves new ways of thinking. Many, many things…

Which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction? One project where I embedded drawings that I had produced on raw linen on the grounds of a 12th century ruin in Ireland, was the most satisfying. The work was beautiful as placed on site and remained there for about 30 days after which time it was shipped back to me in the U.S. When I received it, the work looked as though it had been there for a 100 years rather than such a short time. I was amazed and set about reconstructing it into a new artifact as a simulation of history changing the narrative of the object.

Who are the writer’s you admire the most? I guess I don’t really think of admiring writers. I read a good bit of philosophy and art theory, which makes me think more about my creative ideas.

What about architects and designers? I don’t look at specific names, but certainly admire a lot of architectural work and design work.

What else are you working on at the moment? Next projects? I just completed a project titled “Menhirs” (from Brittonic languages: maen or men, “stone” and hir or hîr, “long”), standing stone, orthostat, lith or masseba/matseva, which is a large upright standing stone. It is a series of paintings which stand upright in a circle as a play on historical stone circles that can be seen in various places across the globe. Standing stones were usually difficult to date. They were constructed during many different periods across pre-history as part of a larger megalithic culture that flourished in Europe and beyond. The exact function of menhirs has provoked more debate than practically any other issue in European pre-history, which I find interesting. The paintings themselves are like stone portraits and are originally based off of research that I did on Chinese scholar stones at an artist’s residency in Beijing, China through Red Gate Gallery. The work takes painting and transforms it into a site unto itself with its own sense of time and history to be interpreted by those that stand before them.

Share something you would like the world to know about you? I would like the world to know that I am fascinated by it, and perhaps I hope that it would be interested in something that I do or make.

Define “Klassik Magazine International ” for the audience? Klassik International suggests a contemporary timelessness to me. In adding the rest of it in, I would define it as a publication which seeks to form a contemporary international view of art which suspends time and makes one consider new possibilities.


2017 Menhirs, solo exhibition with outdoor installation, Featured Artist Gallery, CU South Denver and Natural History Museum, Lone Tree, Colorado.

2016 laden interlacings, traveling joint exhibition with artist Rian Kerrane, venue 3, Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas.

2015 Am I in the right place?, solo exhibition, Oficina de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico.
feretory, solo exhibition, Legion Arts, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
laden interlacings, traveling joint exhibition with artist Rian Kerrane, venue 2, Legion Arts, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

2014 disentanglement, solo outdoor installation project, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Shankill Castle, Paulstown, County Kilkenny, Ireland.
Romantic Overgrowth, solo exhibition, Plus Gallery, Denver, Colorado.

TOPOGRAPHIES: exploring space place time, three-person exhibition with artists Michaela Keyes and David C. Williams, Pikes Peak Community College Downtown Studio Art Gallery, Colorado Springs, Colorado. laden interlacings, joint exhibition with artist Rian Kerrane, venue 1, Archangel Gallery, Palm Springs, California.

2013 sticks and stones, solo exhibition, Three Link Gallery, Smithville, Missouri.


Turning Points, upcoming exhibition with Artnauts Collective, Cambodia.
Untitled, upcoming exhibition with Artnauts Collective, Chile.
Liminal Space, upcoming exhibition with Artnauts Collective, DMZ, Korea.
Pink Progression, venue 1, Boulder Public Library Canyon Gallery, Boulder, Colorado.
Pink Progression, venue 2, Denver Public Library, Denver, Colorado.
Pink Progression, venue 3, Center for Visual Art (CVA Denver), Denver, Colorado.
Pink Progression, venue 4, RedLine Gallery, Denver, Colorado.

Introductions, K Contemporary, Denver, Colorado.
Globalocation II: Artnauts 20th Anniversary Exhibition, venue 3, Rosemary Duffy Larson Gallery, Broward College, Davie, Florida.
Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016: Cooperative Consciousness—works from A.I.R., Kochi Biennale Foundation, Fort Kochi, Kerala, India.
META JOURNEY, Art Gallery Bihac /Bosnian: UMJETNIKA GALERIJA BIHA, Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
META JOURNEY, The Historical Museum, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Cultivation, Republic Plaza, Arts Brookfield New York, Denver, Colorado.
Globalocation: Artnauts 20th Anniversary Exhibition, venue 2, University of Texas, Austin, Texas.

Globalocation: Artnauts 20th Anniversary Exhibition, venue 1, RedLine Gallery, Denver, Colorado.
New Art in an Old House, A.I.R. at Governors Island, New York, New York.
fire + iron = art, Curtis Arts & Humanities Center, Greenwood Village, Colorado.
Zeitgeist, Greatmore Studios, Cape Town, South Africa.PeopleScapes, Republic Plaza, Denver, Colorado.
PeopleScapes, Republic Plaza, Arts Brookfield New York, Denver, Colorado.
Red Gate Residency Open Studio, Feijiacun, Shangri-la Studios, Beijing, China.
In the Secret Garden, curated by Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, New York.
Art & Resistance, Dar Al-Kalima University, Bethlehem, Palestine.
Soul Drift: Visualizations of a Cultural Phenomenon, International Festival Sarajevo “Sarajevo Winter”, Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Luminosity 2015, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Denver, Colorado.
A.I.R.: (re)freshed, traveling exhibition venue 5, House 5B, Nolan Park, Governor’s Island, New York.
Vis-á-Vis: Biennial Ambassadors Residency Exhibition, McNichols Building, Denver, Colorado.
Conscious and Unconscious: Subjects of the Real & Surreal, Arvada Center for the Arts, Arvada, Colorado.
A.I.R.: (re)freshed, traveling exhibition venue 4, Ginko Room at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.
Transformed Viewpoints, curated by Charlotta Kotik, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, New York.
A.I.R.: (re)freshed, traveling exhibition venue 3, Princeton University’s Gallery of the Dept. of Gender and Sexuality Studies, Princeton, New Jersey.

A.I.R.: (re)freshed, traveling exhibition venue 2, ADORE Gallery, San Francisco, California.
Power of Place, Buell Theater, Denver Performing Arts Center, Denver, Colorado.
A.I.R.: (re)freshed, traveling exhibition venue 1, Ground Floor Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee.
From Here and There: Drawings from Colorado and Wales, Clara Hatton Gallery, Fort Collins, Colorado.
The Collectors’ Show, Archangel Gallery, Palm Springs, California.
Liminal Communities, curated by Lucy Li, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, New York.
From Here and There: Drawings from Wales and Colorado, Elysium Gallery, Swansea, Wales.

Frag•ment, curated by Jill Conner, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, New York.
aLIVE, Archangel Art Collective, Palm Springs, California.

K Contemporary, Artist Representation, Denver, Colorado
Artnauts, Collective Member, Denver, Colorado
Plus Gallery, On-line Artist Representation, Denver, Colorado
Saatchi Gallery, On-line Artist Registry, London, England
NURTUREart Gallery, On-line Registry of Artists and Curators, Brooklyn, New York

Nettie Lee Benson Archive, Latin American Collection, Dr. George Rivera Papers’ Archive, University of Texas, Austin.
Shankill Castle, Paulstown, County Kilkenny, Ireland.
Safeco Corporation, Seattle, Washington.
Sonoma State University Art Gallery, Rhonert Park, California.
King County Public Art Collection, Seattle, Washington.
Fish Tank Gallery, Brooklyn, New York.
The Corporation of Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York.
Museum of Modern Art/Franklin Furnace/Artist Book Collection, New York, New York.
Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, California.
Hungarian Multicultural Center, Ferencsik Janos Zeneiskola, Balatonfured, Hungary.
Amity Art Foundation, Inc., Woodbridge, Connecticut.
University of Iowa Thesis Archives, Iowa City, Iowa.
University of Iowa Special Collections Artists’ Books Archive, Iowa City, Iowa.
Numerous private collections.

Artist Lecture, Asian Art Association and the Denver Art Museum, asked to present recent and developed creative work related to China, Denver, Colorado, Program Chair: Yang Wang.

Biennial Ambassador, Biennial of the Americas, ArtPlant and SOMA, Mexico City residency award winner and representation at the 2015 Biennial of the Americas, Denver, Colorado, selected by curator Carla Herrera-Prats.

Matter as Protagonist: A National Juried Exhibition, Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven, Connecticut, exhibition award winner, Juror: Jessica Stockholder.